(JollofNews) – The United States said Friday that it has voiced outrage to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Gambia after their leaders’ guards roughed
up protesters at Washington’s Africa summit.
Jacques Miango, a US-based activist critical of DR Congo’s President Joseph Kabila, said in an online video that guards beat him and others and stole his laptop as they held a small protest Wednesday near the leader’s hotel in Washington’s tony Georgetown neighborhood.
“We take the right to freedom of expression very seriously and violence against peaceful protesters is totally unacceptable,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters.
“We communicated our concern to the delegation in the strongest possible terms,” she added.
The United States asked DR Congo to waive immunity for the guards so they could face prosecution in Washington, but the guards instead left the United States on Thursday and are unlikely to face charges, Harf said.
A video of the incident, taken by a passer-by and posted to the video-sharing website YouTube, showed a man who appeared to be a security guard kicking a protester on the ground before storming off.
US police are seen intervening to separate the two sides and telling the man, who struggled to get to his feet, that an ambulance was on its way.
Harf said the United States also asked the delegation of Gambia to waive immunity for a guard after President Yahya Jammeh’s security detail similarly cracked down on protesters outside his hotel.
An exiled Gambian journalist, Fatou Camara, and a protester needed hospital treatment after Jammeh’s guards forcibly dispersed the crowd as the president left the ritzy Hay-Adams Hotel near the White House, according to Gainako, a news blog that highlights human rights in the West African country.
Camara on Twitter described the incident as “an attack on democracy and rule of law,” saying: “God save Gambia!”
Some 50 African leaders visited Washington from Monday to Wednesday for a first-of-a-kind summit, which President Barack Obama hoped would promote good governance as well as trade deals.
Kabila met with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is pushing him to respect constitutional limits and not seek another term when the vast, troubled nation heads to the polls in 2016.
Freedom of speech is enshrined in the US constitution and protests virtually always go off without violence in Washington, with local police sometimes guarding controversial protesters.
Telephone calls late Friday to the DR Congo and Gambian embassies went unanswered.