Peace marches organised by the Catholic Church took place across the Democratic Republic of Congo to protest violence in the country's east, days after an alleged massacre of civilians.
Tens of thousands of Christians have been called by their churches to protest violence in eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo, as their leaders accused the West of hypocrisy over Rwanda's alleged role in the fighting.
After Sunday services, churchgoers in the capital Kinshasa and other major cities heeded a call from the conference of Catholic bishops to march against the conflict with the M23 rebel group, which Congo accuses Rwanda of supporting. Rwanda denies this.
"We say no to war, no to a divided Congo," said Blaise Emmanuel, vicar at St. Elizabeth's parish, who with other priests led a procession in Montgafula, one of the poorest communes in Kinshasa.
The mass protests were the most significant since an escalation in fighting in recent months between state forces and M23. The violence has displaced an estimated 390,000 people, according to UN agency OCHA.
Demonstrators in Kinshasa sang and carried banners reading: "No to balkanisation, no to the hypocrisy of the international community. The DRC is not for sale."
Rwanda's alleged role
Many in Congo have for years accused the West of failing to hold Rwanda to account for its alleged role in stoking insecurity in the east.
The European parliament in late November called on Rwanda not to support the M23 rebels. But last week the European Commission was criticised in Congo for a decision to give $21 million to support Rwandan troops helping fight insurgents in Mozambique.
At the end of the march in Montgafula, protesters sang the national anthem and a priest holding a Congolese flag climbed on to a chair to address the crowd.
"It is the small country that is fighting us," said Father Theophile Landu in reference to Rwanda. "Behind it are the United States and the European Union. We tell them that they must stop the hypocrisy."
In August, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said reports by UN experts that Rwanda continued to support the M23 were "credible". Rwanda's government has disputed the findings.
Anti-Western sentiments were aired in other cities in protests where high-profile attendees included the head of the Senate, several ministers and lawmakers from the ruling party and the opposition.
The DRC and Rwanda took part in talks in late November aimed at finding solutions to the conflict. Other negotiations led by the seven-member East African Community (EAC) are ongoing.