A number of fatalities have purportedly occurred during heavy fighting between security forces and militants loyal to a slain tribal leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to the DRC government spokesman, the violence erupted in the country’s south central city of Kananga on Thursday and continued into Friday, with conflicting reports on the number of lives lost. A western military source put the number of deaths between 10 and 20, while local media and witnesses said seven government soldiers and 40 militants had died.
Lambert Mende, the DRC government spokesman, said the militants had conducted several attacks on the city’s airport during the fighting but calm had returned and the situation was under control. The assailants are believed to have launched the attacks to avenge the death of their tribal chief leader named Kamwina Nsapu, who was killed in a clash with police last month.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has warned of a looming “large-scale crisis” in the African country. At least 32 people died in two days of clashes between protesters and anti-riot forces in the DRC’s capital, Kinshasa this week.
The protests were triggered over a delay in Congo’s presidential election, originally set for November. The opposition views the delay as an attempt by President Joseph Kabila to stay in power beyond his mandate which ends on December 20.
Kabila has been at the helm of the mineral-rich country since 2001. His critics claim Kabila is currently seeking ways, including pushing back the election, to extend his rule over the poverty-stricken country.
The DR Congo is suffering from outdated infrastructure and a festering war in the east since 1998 which has left more than 5.5 million people killed.