Between 17 and 50 people have been killed during thousands-strong protests against Joseph Kabila, the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the country’s capital on Monday.
Thousands-strong protests against Joseph Kabila, the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, claimed lives of between 17 and 50 people in Kinshasa, the country’s capital, on Monday.
Thousands of protesters took part in the demonstration against Kabila, but clashes with the security forces and police have started shortly after the protest was begun. The police have been accused of using tear gas to disperse demonstrators, before opening fire with live ammunition, by non-governmental organizations and the opposition. As the situation escalated, protestors burned cars and set up barricades in the streets.
As the AFP news agency reported, citing an opposition statement, that the clashes claimed lives of at least 50 people. Reportedly, the opposition continues to call for further protests.
Earlier, the government reported about at least 17 killed, including 14 civilians and three police officers. It was not reported about a specific reason of the death of the civilians, but photos, posted on social media, show several people lying dead with gunshot wounds. The government also warned that the death toll could rise.
According to a witness, who spoke to IBTimes UK on condition of anonymity, the police specifically targeted opposition figures.
“Dozens wounded, including prominent opposition leader [Martin] Fayulu,” the witness said. “It is clear that he was targeted, a bullet only just scraped his head. Only a few millimeters and it would have hit his skull. The worst was avoided.”
The eastern city of Goma also was engulfed in protests, but violence was avoided there. The government has declared the demonstrations illegal due to the violence in Kinshasa.
A reason of the protests has become a postponement of elections, which should take place in November. According to the government, the delay is explained by logistical problems with the electoral roll that would make a fair process impossible. Activists and opposition parties believe that the president just tries to maintain his hold on power in this way.
On Friday, about a dozen activists were arrested and held without charge in Kinshasa in an attempt of the government to suppress opposition supporters in the run-up to the protests. The Human Rights Watch non-governmental organization condemned these actions of the government.
Joseph Kabila took over as president in 2001, after his father was killed. He is supposed to leave the post in December, when his second term will end. However, there has never been a peaceful political transition in the Democratic Republic of Congo, rich in natural resources, since independence from Belgium in 1960. A series of civil wars has engulfed the state, the bloodiest of which lasted from 1996 to 2003 and claimed lives of millions of people.