The Democratic Republic of Congo has suspended its top-flight football league for one month over fears of match violence, the sports minister said on Wednesday, amid high political tensions.
“The suspension of the national football championship from December 15 to January 14 (is justified by fears of) pitch invasions (or) stone throwing” during the match, Youth and Sports Minister Denis Kambayi told AFP, warning of “provocation”.
“The clubs’ leaders seem to be overwhelmed by the task of controlling supporters,” he added, referring to recent clashes between supporters and police in the Congolese capital Kinshasa.
In May 2014, at least 15 people were killed in violence following a top-flight fixture.
In recent months supporters of local clubs and the national side have used fixtures to sing chants against long-time President Joseph Kabila, such as “yebela!”(“watch out!”) and “mandat esili” (“your mandate is over”).
Kabila triggered a political crisis in October by agreeing a deal with a fringe opposition group that effectively lets him extend his hold on power for at least another year. He would otherwise have been due to step down next week.
More than 50 people died in September protests against Kabila’s rule, leading authorities to ban all political protest in Kinshasa until January.
Kabila, 45, first took office in 2001 after the assassination of his father Laurent-Desire Kabila and a 2006 constitutional provision limited the presidency to two terms.