Police in Democratic Republic of Congo have detained four youth leaders on the eve of a planned protest against President Joseph Kabila, the main opposition coalition said on Friday.
“‘The Gathering’ denounces the abduction of four leaders of our youth structures on Thursday at around 21:00 by hooded men in police uniform, for a destination unknown until this morning,” coalition official Adam Bombole told AFP.
Grouped around the Union for Democracy and Social Progress Party (UDPS) led by veteran opposition chief Etienne Tshisekedi, the Gathering has called a mass rally in Kinshasa on Saturday to demand that Kabila quit office on December 20, when his second and final constitutional mandate expires.
“These youths were caught red-handed in possession of leaflets in their car calling for revolt against the authorities,” police spokesperson Colonel Pierrot-Rombaut Mwanamputu told AFP.
The four young men were “transferred somewhere”, he added, giving no further details when asked whether they would be presented before a state prosecutor.
The director of the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office in DRC, Jose-Maria Aranaz, told AFP that it was undertaking “verification of allegations that six members of the opposition were arrested” on Thursday night in the capital.
The arrests took place hours after Kabila named a new prime minister, Samy Badibanga, a UPDS defector and former diamond dealer, as part of a power-sharing deal between the regime and a minority fringe of opposition parties.
The pact, born of a “national dialogue” boycotted by most of the opposition, effectively postpones the presidential poll due by the end of this year at least until late 2017.
In previous mass protests against delayed elections and prolonged power for Kabila, 53 people were killed on September 19 and 20, according to a UN toll.
Clashes broke out on Thursday afternoon close to the UPDS headquarters in the Limete district of Kinshasa between police and opposition activists who were handing out leaflets encouraging people to demonstrate on Saturday.
Kabila first came to power after the murder of his father Laurent-Desire Kabila by a bodyguard in 2001 during the Second Congo War, which ended two years later.
Elected in 2006, he went on to win a second five-year term in a 2011 vote decried as rigged by the opposition. Foreign official observers said the poll lacked credibility.