At least two people have been killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo as protests against President Joseph Kabila turn violent.
Officials working for the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) said Thursday that a police officer and a protester were killed as police clashed with demonstrators in the eastern city of Goma.
However, sources in Goma’s police denied there were any police deaths and said a “looter” was killed. Locals in Goma said police fired teargas to disperse youths who blocked roads with barricades.
Clashes also erupted in the capital Kinshasa and a suburb in its north as thousands took to the streets to oppose a potential move by Kabila to stay in power beyond his normal mandate. The protesters say Kabila, in power since his father’s assassination in 2001, is preparing to remain in office beyond the two terms allowed under the constitution.
Protesters chanted slogans such as “No to a third mandate”, “People rise up” and “Kabila buzz off.”
Authorities said the demonstration in Kinshasa had obtained the required permission, but said clashes began after a crowd decided to deviate from an agreed route.
Heavy police deployment could be seen in the second city and mining hub of Lubumbashi, where many shops remained shuttered and the number of vehicles on the roads was far lower than usual.
National police spokesman Colonel Pierre Rombaut Mwanamputu confirmed that there were sporadic incidents and that “some arrests” were made. He would not elaborate.
Tension began to soar over Kabila’s move to remain in office after the Constitutional Court ruled earlier this month that the 44-year-old president could remain in a caretaker capacity beyond the expiry of his second term. However, anger boiled on Friday after Moise Katumbi, Kabila’s main rival, was pushed to exile in South Africa.