Anarchy sweeps capital after marchers beaten

Parts of Kinshasa descended into anarchy yesterday after soldiers used tear gas and armoured cars to disperse thousands of students demonstrating in support of the beleaguered Prime Minister, Etienne Tshisekedi.

"You see what these people are, the Zairean army," complained student Leblanc Mangala, after one desperate charge. "The people are marching for democracy and they fire gas and bullets. They don't shoot at Kabila [Laurent Kabila, the rebel leader]."

In the poor quarter of Makotge, burning barriers were erected and cars hijacked by mobs that often seemed to have little direct political motive for their actions.

Journalists and foreigners were intimidated or even stoned, and here and there crowds set about victims and began beating them.

Not to be left behind by civilians or their comrades in the South, Kinshasa's garrison did a little light looting of its own. One American radio journalist had her tape recorder and shoes stolen by soldiers during a charge on the marchers. Another lost his watch.

Yesterday's unrest in Kinshasa stems from the hurried reappointment of the veteran opposition leader, Mr Tshisikedi, as prime minister less than one week ago. Hailed as the one credible figure who could unite Kinshasa's bickering elites and lead them into peace talks with Kabila, Mr Tshisekedi at once outraged Mobutu Sese Seko's immediate family and alienated many within his own by announcing that he intended to dissolve the unelected but well-paid parliament and appoint a cabinet containing no Mobutist ministers. He also proposed to reserve six cabinets seats out of 48 for Mr Kabila's Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo- Zaire, an offer rejected by the rebels.

At the weekend, angry MPs announced that they would sack their new premier on Monday. Many young Kinshasans did not agree, and managed to keep parliament closed yesterday. Taking refuge in the central Memling Hotel, pro-Mobutu parliamentary leader Jean Marie Elesse Bokohoma admitted that MPs had underestimated public hostility. "The street does not agree with the parliament," he said.

Yet Mr Tshisekedi failed to capitalise on his supporters' victory yesterday. A large chanting crowd that gathered outside his home was told first that the leader would address them, then that he was too busy with the meeting. One of his newly appointed "ministers", Christian Badibangi, told the rapidly thinning crowd to prepare instead for a big public demonstration on Wednesday.

For all the tension and violence in Kinshasa yesterday, many foreign observers still doubt that the Zairean people have the will and the unity to topple the dictatorship, which most detest. While some of those marching yesterday were ardent Tshisekedist- "he is a man of peace, Kabila a man of blood", bawled one student clinging to a looted truck - others were just as inclined to hand the crown to Kabila.

Asked what they would do if Marshal Mobutu simply ignored their calls for his resignation, many students were nonplussed: "We are waiting for Kabila", was a common response. But with Mr Kabila's nearest forces hundreds of miles away, Kinshasa seems fated to endure a long, chaotic wait. Across the river in Brazzaville around 2,000 troops from Britain, France, Belgium and the United States are standing by to make sure it is not too violent - for their expatriate nationals at least.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea