Violent dispersal of opposition rally in Bukavu: contrasting reactions
By Giselle Mfuyi, US Africa News. Updated 2014-04-12
A controversy has been dominating national news in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since Thursday, 20 February 2014, following a dispersion of a gathering of the Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC) for Vital Kamerhe, organized in the town of Bukavu (capital of North-Kivu). According to Kamere, former close aide to the president of the Republic Joseph Kabila, turned fierce opponent, there were one dead and 47 wounded. The record was swept clean with a sleight of hand by the Minister of Communication and Government spokesman, Lambert Mende, who spoke of only three wounded. "The shots were fired by unknown persons because the elements of the National Police were not armed... " he insisted over the phone on Friday, February 21, 2014.
In fact, according to UNC spokesman, national MP Jolino Makelele, who was contacted by Anadolu News Agency, it all started with the arrival of party leader Kamerhe in Bukavu around 4:30 p.m. "Our party activists carried him on a traditional chair called a ‘tipoye' with visible intent to install it on the dais of the Place de l’Independance, where a large crowd of supporters was waiting. The police then intervened to disperse them. Several people were injured in the stampede that ensued. The demonstration had been banned earlier by the Mayor of the city, who had decided on relocation to another venue,” reported Makelele.
According to Makelele, at the the demonstrators’ approach the police, who were deployed at the scene, launched tear gas grenades and fired shots to disperse the population. In the rout that followed, Kamerhe fell from his chair but was able to be evacuated by the police. "It is truly regrettable. If our activists were not disciplined, there would have been even more damage,” he said, adding, “We demand an independent commission of inquiry to establish who is responsible for all of the damage, before condemning the ‘irresponsibility’ of the authorities in the management of this event.
Reacting to this accusation of the UNC, Minister Lambert Mende implicated the party leadership in seeking victim status. "Vital Kamerhe wants to create martyrs. While his rally was simply moved to the Kadutu stadium, he decided to disturb public order by organizing instead at Place de L’indépendance, a public place that every citizen had the right to enjoy... " he stressed. Nevertheless, Kamerhe will continue his tour through the East of the country, in the hope that he will respect the laws of the Republic, the Minister concluded.
Similarly, Henri-Thomas Lokondo, National Deputy and member of the Presidential Majority, invited the political actors in the country to keep calm and to avoid a propaganda management of public opinion. "We have serious economic and social problems to resolve before the 2016 elections" he questioned.