DRC: Protesting street kids held

DRC: Protesting street kids held 

22/09/2006

Kinshasa – More than 700 street children have been rounded up in the Democratic Republic of Congo capital Kinshasa over the past few days, said police sources on Friday.

"We are holding in custody about 700 homeless young people, who were responsible for acts of disorder in central Kinshasa, where they threw stones at the police and passers-by," Kinshasa police chief Patrick Sabiti told AFP.

More than 100 street dwellers, mostly children and young people, caused havoc in central Kinshasa on Tuesday, burning tyres and throwing stones at police. They were protesting about a fire that had broken out at a television station, owned by presidential contender Jean-Pierre Bemba, on Monday.

"These young people have been behaving like bandits for some time now, attacking members of the public. We have had several complaints," said Sabiti. "We are currently identifying the young people, of whom 90% are adults. Those considered guilty will be sent to court and the others will be released to their families."

United Nations officials at the UN mission in the DRC, Monuc, said they were investigating the arrests. Monuc has often criticised the treatment of the country’s estimated 20 000 street children and young people.

Bemba’s party said Tuesday that it believed the fire at the television station had been deliberately started by "people who do not accept political contestation and the free expression of opinion". Bemba is running for president against the country’s current head of state Josph Kabila. The campaign has been marred by violence between their supporters. Voting in the second and final round of the DRC’s first democratic presidential poll in more than 40 years is scheduled for October 29.

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