DR Congo Protests: Opposition Headquarters Set Ablaze
The headquarters of three DR Congo opposition parties were torched overnight and early Tuesday, a day after deadly clashes between police and opponents of President Joseph Kabila, AFP journalists said.
At least two burnt bodies could be seen in the fire-ravaged offices of the main opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), while two other people were burnt alive and one person injured, they said.
By 8:30 am (0730 GMT) flames were dying down at the headquarters of the Forces of Union and Solidarity (FONUS) and the Lumumbist Progressive Movement (MLP) in the north of the capital Kinshasa.
Fire was still raging at the UDPS building where a tearful woman in her 40s said that her husband had been there when unidentified assailants attacked the building.
“I’ve just put my husband’s body in the morgue. He was killed in the clashes,” she told AFP.
The fresh violence came after a bloody day on Monday during which opposition groups said more than 50 people had died.
For its part, the government said that at least 17 had perished in the clashes but warned that the toll could rise further.
The opposition said that security forces fired live ammunition into protesters and urged supporters to pour onto the streets again to demand Kabila step down.
Monday’s violence started just before an opposition rally by demonstrators who fear Kabila — who has ruled the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2001 — is planning to extend his rule unconstitutionally.
Opponents want Kabila out
The clashes were the worst violence in the capital since January 2015 when a police crackdown on another opposition protest left several dozen people dead.
Kabila’s mandate ends on December 20 and although the constitution bans him from running again, he has made no effort to schedule elections, fuelling fears he will attempt to cling on to power.
In May, the Constitutional Court said Kabila could remain in office in a caretaker capacity until an election is held, triggering a wave of angry protests.
France and former colonial power Belgium have voiced concern over the unrest and urged political forces to organise an election quickly.
A fringe opposition group has been meeting with the government in a bid to organise a schedule for elections, but veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi has refused to participate in the talks which are due to end on Saturday.
Last week, Amnesty International accused Kinshasa of the “systematic repression” of those seeking Kabila’s departure.
An AFP photographer and a journalist working for French radio station RFI were briefly detained by the security forces while they covered the clashes.
They were beaten several times and eventually released. However, the AFP photographer’s confiscated memory cards were not returned.