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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 September 2006, 01:49 GMT 02:49 UK
DR Congo children held after riot
By Arnaud Zajtman
BBC News, Kinshasa

Some of those detained in Kinshasa
Those detained complain they are not getting enough food and water
More than 800 street children and beggars have been arrested in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo since riots on Wednesday.

Some had protested against the burning of a TV station owned by a candidate in next month's presidential elections.

After three days in custody in Kinshasa some 200 children were released.

But more than 500 adults, including women with their babies, are still being detained in the courtyard of a police station.

They complain that they are not getting enough food or clean water to drink and that they have no shelter from the heavy rain.

The head of Kinshasa's police said that the suspects were being investigated in relation to what he termed "criminal activities".

But the arrests took place only one day after Kinshasa's street children and unemployed took to the streets in protest.

Right to protest

They were angry about a fire that had destroyed a television station owned by Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former rebel leader who is President Joseph Kabila's only challenger in the upcoming presidential elections.

They threw stones at the police and UN forces and managed to bring life to a standstill in Kinshasa's business district.

But they were quickly dispersed by police firing tear gas and live rounds of ammunition.

Jean-Pierre Bemba is in the run-off for the second round of the presidential elections scheduled for October.

But in recent weeks, he had his helicopter destroyed and his house attacked by soldiers loyal to President Kabila.

His supporters have accused the government of being behind the fire that destroyed Mr Bemba's television and radio stations.

A Congolese human rights activist said that the arrest of Kinshasa's street children and beggars meant that a segment of Kinshasa's society was being deprived of its right to protest.

But analysts say that the arrests deprive Mr Bemba, who is popular in Kinshasa, from potential support from the streets of Kinshasa.




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