At least two people were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo in protests by opposition supporters calling for President Joseph Kabila to leave office this year.
In the eastern city of Goma, one civilian and one police officer were killed during the demonstrations, Jose Maria Aranaz, director of the United Nations’ Congo-based Joint Human Rights Office, said by phone from Kisangani Thursday. Across the country, 59 people were arrested and four were injured, the office said.
The governor of North Kivu, Julien Paluku, denied that a police officer had been killed. “One person was killed in an incident involving a police officer guarding a commercial property unrelated to the protest,” he said by phone from Goma. As many as 15 people were arrested and then released, he said.
Congo, Africa’s biggest copper producer and the world’s largest source of cobalt, is scheduled to hold presidential elections in November. Kabila, who has ruled since 2001 and is barred by the constitution from seeking a third term, has yet to say whether he will stand down. With the elections likely to be delayed, the country’s Constitutional Court ruled on May 11 that Kabila can stay in power until elections are held.
Opposition leaders organised protests in cities across the country calling for Kabila to step down in December. Rallies took place peacefully in three towns. Elsewhere, demonstrations either were banned or protesters were dispersed having clashed with security forces.
Police fired tear gas in the capital, Kinshasa, to break up a crowd of protesters that had gathered on two main roads in the city, said Jean Lucien Bussa, leader of the opposition Party of Democrats and Reformists.