Four civilians and a policeman have been killed in clashes in eastern DR Congo as protestors demanded that President Joseph Kabila stand down this year.
An AFP journalist said on Monday he saw the bodies of four civilians lying in blood in the Madjengon district of Goma, capital of the troubled North Kivu province, while the body of a policeman who had been hit with stones was on the ground in the neighboring district of Mabanga.
Police spokesman Colonel Pierrot-Rombaut Mwanamputu said “a police officer was murdered by gunfire and lynching by demonstrators” and “a civilian died after being hit by stray rounds.”
Two other police officers were seriously hurt by rocks, he said, adding that this was still a provisional toll.
The protest was organized by an association of civil society groups, including the pro-democracy Struggle for Change (Lucha).
“The resistance against the bloody and predatory regime of Kabila has well and truly begun,” Lucha said on Twitter.
No demonstrations took place in DRC’s capital of Kinshasa, and in the northeastern city of Kisangani, and police dispersed a small number of demonstrators who tried to burn tires to block the streets.
At Mbandaka, in the northwest of the country, schools were closed and commercial life seemed muted.
‘Waiting for elections’
Tensions are running high in the DRC after Kabila failed to step down on the expiry of his second and final term last December.
Elections were due to take place this year under a transitional deal aimed at avoiding bloodshed in a country beset by ethnic divisions and fighting in its east.
But the country’s electoral commission says there will be no vote before early 2019, mainly because of the problems of completing an electoral roll in the troubled central region of Kasai.
Worried about a fresh outbreak of political violence, the international community has pressed for a vote to choose a new head of state to be held as soon as possible — but no timetable has been set so far.
Kabila, who took over the DRC on his father’s assassination in 2001, won successive elections in 2006 and 2011.
He is constitutionally barred from running for a third term but in May 2016 the constitutional court declared he could remain head of state until his successor is elected.
During a visit to the country last week, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, called on the government to hold elections next year, rather than delay them until 2019, if it wanted to count on American backing.
In sharp-edged response to Haley, Lucha said the true goal should be to honor the December 31, 2016 compromise that set down the transitional deal.
“What we expect from your country is neither pity nor charity, but concrete actions based on your economic, diplomatic and political influence, to support the momentum of our people,” Lucha said.
“It’s not about elections for 2018. That must be clear for everyone. Elections in 2017 or a transition without Kabila,” Fred Bauma, one of Lucha’s leaders, said on his Twitter account.