The United Nations human rights chief has warned the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo of a looming “large-scale crisis” in the African country. Congo’s leaders “need to pull back from their extremely confrontational position and build bridges with the opposition,” Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said in a statement on Thursday.
The comments by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights came after several people were killed and the headquarters of several opposition parties were torched over the past days in protest against a delayed presidential election.
Police said that 32 people died this week during clashes between protesters and anti-riot forces in the capital, Kinshasa. The senior UN official condemned the “excessive use of force” by security officials, as well as attacks by “unknown assailants” against the ruling party headquarters.
He said some civilians had been killed by gunshots to the head or chest. 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. Congo is suffering from outdated infrastructure and a festering war in the east since 1998 which has left more than 5.5 million people killed.