Warning shots in Kinshasa after mass by anti-govt cardinal

Kinshasa - Police fired warning shots on Friday to disperse a crowd gathered in front of Kinshasa cathedral after a mass by prominent government critic Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo, an AFP journalist said.

Armed officers arrived at the gates of the cathedral as worshippers were leaving a service to commemorate the victims of a crackdown on marches on New Year's Eve that demanded the removal of Democratic Republic of Congo's president, Joseph Kabila.

A young man who was slightly wounded in the face told AFP he had been hit by the shots. He was treated in a garden behind the building.

The mass, conducted in a packed cathedral, saw the congregation applaud and cheer Catholic leaders as they urged Kabila to uphold a 2016 church-brokered deal, which should lead to the president standing down.

Kabila has been in power since 2001, at the helm of a regime widely criticised for corruption, repression and incompetence.

His constitutional term in office expired in December 2016, but he stayed on - a move that stoked a bloody spiral of violence.

Under an agreement brokered by the church, he was allowed to stay in office provided new elections were held in 2017.

After months of silence, the authorities said the vote would be held in December 2018 - a postponement that has angered Western nations, but one that they have reluctantly accepted.

Friday's service was prominently attended by envoys from western nations, with the ambassadors of Belgium, Britain, Canada, France and the Netherlands and a representative from the United States in the front row.

An envoy from the Vatican's mission was in the second row.