Violent protests have broken out in Bukavu, Eastern Congo, attracting support from leaders of the rebel M23 Movement.
The angry youth torched cars and set up barricades along major roads leading to the city, protesting insecurity in the region and government’s failure to address their economic challenges.
The protesters also carried placards with messages urging President Joseph Kabila to organize fresh elections.
Police could be seen using teargas and live bullets to disperse crowds. Some of the arrested youth were brutally beaten by security forces crushing what could turn out as an uprising.
“The young people of Bukavu are determined to assume the role attributed to Bukavu – a revolutionary city,” said the political leader of the M23 group, Bertrand Bisiimwa.
The development comes against the backdrop of running tension in the country after Kabila fell short of organising elections after the expiry of his term almost two years ago.
With attacks on villages in the DRC province of Ituri continuing this past weekend, more than 22,000 desperate Congolese refugees crossed Lake Albert to Uganda with four drowning when their boat capsized.
Refugees crossing to Uganda talk of growing attacks against civilian populations, as well as killings and destruction of private property.
UNHCR staff also received many reports of civilians being hacked to death and killed with arrows.
The protests also follow intense fighting between DRC and Rwandan soldiers along the two countries’ border on Tuesday.
DRC claims M23 rebels are operating near the border with Rwanda and intend to commence military operations there.
Rwanda has since urged the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism to probe the motive of the attack which they say occurred at their base in the Volcanoes area in Mugari Cell, Shingiro Sector in Musanze District.
Bisiimwa on Friday said, “From this city (Bukavu) could rise a great march of liberation of the country. Patrice Lumumba said the liberation of the country will come from the East. Bukavu is the symbol of resistance against tyranny and mediocrity. These young revolutionaries in Bukavu deserve the support and sympathy of all.”
The situation in DRC appears to be rapidly getting out hand with high chances of rebels exploiting the turmoil to wage war against Kabila.
The M23 last year warned Kinshasa of grave consequences for refusing to honour its commitments on rehabilitation of the disarmed combatants.
Bisiimwa today described the protests as a “revolution” and appealed for more action against government.
“Young people from Nyamugo in Bukavu have just entered the revolution,” said Bisiimwa, adding, “At this moment, they control all the main arteries of the commune of Kadutu in solidarity with the young people of Nguba to free themselves from negative governance that sustains the widespread insecurity they make daily.”