Police have beaten a journalist and fired tear gas to disperse a small crowd in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) capital, Kinshasa, during an opposition protest against alleged election meddling.
Some 20 protesters gathered on Wednesday in response to a call by opposition leader Martin Fayulu.
Police beat and temporarily detained Patient Ligodi, a journalist working for Radio France International (RFI), 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.
‘Aggressive and savage’
RFI said in a statement Ligodi had been “ejected” from the police car while it was moving, but that he was “out of danger”.
It strongly condemned the use of force, urging the Congolese authorities “to take all necessary measures against such actions”.
Congolese journalists working for international outlets also issued a statement, saying Ligodi’s arrest had been “aggressive and savage”.
They said Ligodi was beaten, and that officers sat on him in their car, “totally smothering him”. The statement also demanded that the officers, as well as their direct superior, be “arrested and prosecuted”.
The police, who had banned the march citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, said Ligodi had been mistaken for a protester. Several demonstrators were reportedly detained.
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.
Protesters also took the streets in the southeastern mining hub of Lubumbashi, the country’s second-largest city, where police used tear gas to disperse them.
Fayulu, who claims he beat President Felix Tshisekedi in the 2018 elections, has said that politicians are trying to influence the election commission.
“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, seen as a main challenger against Tshisekedi in a presidential election scheduled in two years, 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 December 2023 elections have failed to reach a consensus.
Meanwhile, legislators 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 the 2023 polls.