DRC police beat journalist in crackdown on opposition protests

Media workers strongly condemn the beating of journalist Patient Ligodi who was covering the protest called by opposition leader Martin Fayulu.

Police beat a journalist and fired tear gas to disperse a small crowd in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kinshasa, during an opposition protest against alleged electoral meddling.

Some 20 protesters gathered on Wednesday in response to a call from opposition leader Martin Fayulu.

The police beat and temporarily detained the patient Ligodi, a journalist working for Radio France International (RFI), while he was interviewing Fayulu.

“They threw me to the ground and started beating me,” Ligodi said in a video shared on social media.

A video filmed by the France 24 broadcaster showed Ligodi being dragged into a police car by several armed officers.

‘Aggressive and wild’

RFI said in a statement that Ligodi had been “thrown” from the police car while moving, but was “out of danger.”

It strongly condemned the use of force and urged the Congolese authorities to “take all necessary measures against such actions.”

Congolese journalists working for international media also issued a statement, saying that Ligodi’s arrest had been “aggressive and savage.”

They said Ligodi was beaten and officers sat on top of him in his car, “completely suffocating him.” The statement also demanded that the agents, as well as their direct superior, be “arrested and prosecuted.”

Police, who had banned the march citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, said Ligodi had been mistaken for a protester. Several protesters were reportedly arrested.

Government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said in a statement that the police had used excessive force and were launching an investigation.

“The perpetrators will be severely punished,” he said.

Protesters also took to the streets in the southeastern mining center of Lubumbashi, the second largest city in the country, where police used tear gas to disperse them.

Congolese opposition leader Martin Fayulu and Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) attend a meeting before addressing supporters in Kinshasa [File: Kenny Katombe/Reuters]

Fayulu, who claims he beat President Felix Tshisekedi in the 2018 elections, has said that politicians are trying to influence the electoral commission.

“I invite you all to go out on the street … to say no to a politicized [electoral commission]Say ‘no’ to cheating in 2023, ‘no’ to electoral fraud, ”said Fayulu, considered one of the main contenders against Tshisekedi in a presidential election scheduled for two years, in a video posted Monday.

In recent months, the eight religious groups tasked with nominating a candidate to head the electoral commission in the December 2023 elections have failed to reach a consensus.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are ready to vote on a bill that would prevent citizens whose mother and father were not born in the Congo from becoming presidents, effectively excluding Moise Katumbi, another likely contender in the 2023 elections.


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