Police beat journalist, fire tear gas at election protesters in Congo

Police beat a journalist and fired tear gas to disperse a small crowd in Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital Kinshasa on Wednesday during an opposition protest over alleged election meddling, eyewitnesses said.

Around 20 protesters gathered in response to a call by opposition leader Martin Fayulu and were met with stiff resistance from police. Police beat and temporarily detained Patient Ligodi, a journalist working for Radio France International, while he was interviewing Fayulu.

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

Video shot by broadcaster France 24 showed Ligodi being dragged into a police car by several armed officers.

RFI condemned the use of force. It said that Ligodi was aggressively questioned in a police van before being thrown from the vehicle while it was moving.

The police, who had banned the march citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, said Ligodi had been mistaken for a protester. Government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said in a statement that police had used excessive force and that it was launching an investigation.

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

Fayulu, who claims he beat President Felix Tshisekedi in the 2018 elections, has said that politicians are trying to influence the election commission, and he called on supporters to demonstrate.

Fayulu is seen as a main challenger against Tshisekedi in a presidential election scheduled for 2023.

“I invite you all to go out in the streets… to say to no a politicised (electoral commission), say ‘no’ to cheating in 2023, ‘no’ to electoral fraud,” Fayulu said in a video posted on Monday.

In recent months the eight religious groups tasked with nominating a candidate to lead the election commission in the 2023 elections have failed to reach a consensus.

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

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