KINSHASA, Congo (CNS) -- Congo's
bishops said a young Catholic was killed at point-blank range and another was
shot dead while trying to return home from anti-government protests.
The protests, organized by the
church's Lay Coordination Committee, were designed to be peaceful marches "to
say no to dictatorship," said a statement on the bishops' website Feb. 26,
the day after the marches. They said police used tear gas and live bullets.
The bishops said Rossy Tshimanga
was shot outside Kinshasa's St. Benedict Church. After a second youth was shot,
young people set fire to police buildings, the bishops said.
The confrontation was the third in
two months to occur after Sunday Masses. Clashes Dec. 31 and Jan. 21 left 15 people
dead, 70 injured and 115 arrested, including a dozen clergy, according to
church and United Nations data.
"Human rights defenders are
denouncing the brutality shown by police in scattering these peaceful
demonstrators," the bishops said. "But if we believe the city of
Kinshasa's police commissioner, no such slip-ups took place."
A police spokesman said no one
was killed as police broke up the protests.
The bishops said others were
injured and detained around the country as more than 3 million protesters
rallied nationwide, demanding President Joseph Kabila step down. A 2016 church-brokered
accord required Kabila to resign after his second five-year term, with
elections by late 2017. The country's elections currently are scheduled for
"The Congolese national
police suppressed peaceful marches in several Kinshasa parishes, notably at St.
Francis de Sales, where riot police were deployed in the road facing the church
and fired warning shots after Mass," the bishops said.
"At Our Lady of Fatima Parish,
the demonstrators were also restrained by police after scuffles, while those at
Holy Trinity Parish marched along back roads before encountering the security
In a Feb. 26 statement, Leila
Zerrougui, head of the U.N. stabilization mission in Congo, demanded an inquiry
and said she regretted more deaths had occurred, "despite orders given to
security forces to show greatest restraint in handling the
On Feb. 25, Father Donatien
Nshole, secretary-general of the Congolese bishops' conference, praised the
behavior of the police officers in some areas of Kinshasa and called on the
population to remain vigilant.
Agence France-Presse reported that
security forces had been "massively deployed before all Catholic
churches" in Congo's second-largest city, Lubumbashi, where "any
attempt to gather" had been "systematically dispersed" with tear
gas and live bullets. It reported that several Catholics were badly wounded
when trying to sing Congo's national anthem outside Kinsangani's cathedral,
while at least three priests had been driven away in a police jeep at the
city's St. Peter Parish.
AFP reported the government had
accused church leaders of "partisan political activism" and
"inciting the population to revolt" during a Feb. 24 government
Several thousand youth
supporters of the governing party occupied the square in front of the Kinshasa
cathedral Feb. 24; a spokesman told AFP the aim was to "recall the church
to its role of neutrality."