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DRC: prosecution of anti-Kabila Catholic priest kicks off in Kinshasha

DRC: prosecution of anti-Kabila Catholic priest kicks off in Kinshasha

Democratic Republic Of Congo

A senior priest of Kinshasa has appeared before a court in the capital of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over charges relating to a call he made to ring the bells for 15 minutes every week to demand the departure of President Joseph Kabila.

“Father Vincent Tshomba was heard by a public prosecutor in Kalamu for three hours,” one of his lawyers, Georges Kapiamba, told AFP.

He is facing a complaint for “night racket” filed by the National Union of Nationalists (UNANA), a party deemed close to the presidential majority, led by Willy Mishiki.

Father Vincent Tshomba was heard by a public prosecutor in Kalamu for three hours

He accuses Father Tshomba of being the initiator of a call called “operation bells” to demand the application of the New Year’s Eve agreement, which would have triggered a heart attack in one of the party cadres.

In the complaint dated December 18, Frank Kalolo, a signatory of the complaint says the National Secretary of Sport of the UNANA party, Bambi Yoka was returning home at Kasa-Vubu Thursday, December 14, when he would cross Kinois “shouting whistles, tapping pots”, which would have “caused his crisis by losing his mental faculties.” Yoka’s state of health is described as ‘precarious’.

Tshomba’s lawyers are questioning the cause-and-effect link and are surprised at the reason for the “night-time” complaint in the bustling capital of Kinshasa.

The lawyers accuse the presidential majority of attempting to intimidate Father Tshomba because of his mobilizing role and because his parish, Saint-Joseph, houses the preparatory meetings for the December 31st march.

At the beginning of December, Father Tshomba, parish priest of a working-class district in the city center, asked the priests of the capital to ring the bells of their churches every Thursday for 15 minutes starting at 9:00 pm (8:00 pm GMT) .

Its objective was to demand the application of the agreement of 31 December 2016 concluded by the majority and the opposition under the mediation of the Catholic bishops.

This agreement provides for the holding of the presidential no later than “end of 2017” and must lead to the departure of President Kabila, whose term expired on December 20, 2016.

On Thursdays, December 14 and 21, the majority of Catholic parishes had the bells ring. At the same time, in majority of neighborhoods of Kinshasa, the population indulged in a concert of pots, whistles, vuvuzela and horns.

On December 17, a committee of lay Catholics invited the population to a march on December 31, 2017 “to free the future of Congo”, believing that the authorities did not respond to the “preconditions” for the organization of elections that are “truly credible”

Several opposition parties have supported this call, including opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba’s Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC).

The MLC blasted “the confusion created by the indigestible electoral calendar” which provides for the holding of the presidential election on December 23, 2018.

Jean-Pierre Bemba is being held in the Netherlands where he was sentenced to 18 years in prison by the ICC in June 2016 for the wave of murders and rapes committed by his militia between October 2002 and March 2003 in the Central African Republic.

The Constitution forbids president Kabila to present himself for reelection, but authorizes him to remain in power until the election of his successor

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