At least one man has died and another sustained serious injury in clashes with police officers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), on Sunday.
Demonstrators, who gathered in Kinshasa to protest President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down, were fired on by security officials. Police reportedly discharged live rounds and tear gas into the crowd in an attempt to dissolve the banned church-backed Lay Coordination Committee (CLC) protest.
Protesters were heard singing the national anthem, “Debout Congolais” (Rise Up Congolese), as they sought refuge in a cathedral.
“Since 07:00 we have received three injured people from the Catholic march. Two were seriously injured and one died from a bullet wound in the chest,” an St. Joseph de Limete hospital medical official said.
According to AFP, a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross team took the deceased individual to a nearby morgue.
A Catholic church spokesman, Donatien Nshole, confirmed the casualties. “We have registered a death in Kinshasa … as well as several injured,” News24 reported that three priests were detained during the melee.
However, DRC police have denied the claim, stating there had been “zero casualties.”
The demonstrations spilled into several regions, including Kikwit, Goma, Bukavu and Lubumbashi – where dust-ups resulted in riot police being dispatched to manage the crowds.
According to state television, 22 protesters across the country were injured, including 13 police officers. And another eight were arrested. Congo’s UN mission, Leila Zerrougui, said 47 people were injured and more than 100 were arrested across the country.
Kabila, who has been president since 2001, has drawn the anger of many Congolese nationals by consistently delaying a long-overdue election. The embattled president was scheduled to demit office in December 2016 but has enlisted legalese to remain in power until his successor is appointed.
Kabila’s stay in office has resulted in widespread protests and deadly clashes.
“Our people no longer believe in the political will of our current leaders to ensure a peaceful transition of power,” the CLC said in a statement.
About 15 people were killed by security forces in January, according to tolls given by organizers and the United Nations. The DRC Government only acknowledged two deaths.
On Friday, the European Union, Switzerland and Canada issued a joint release stating the “importance of respecting fundamental rights including the right to demonstrate.”