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
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Businessman at desk circa 1950s
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Linux Systems Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of UK Magento hosting so...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Development Manager - North Kent - OTE £19K

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind are working with this secondary s...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: We are working with a school that needs a t...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea