At least 44 dead amid street clashes and election protests in DR Congo

At least 44 dead amid street clashes and election protests in DR Congo

More than 44 people have been killed in DR Congo in two days of street clashes between security forces and protesters against a delayed presidential election, a senior Human Rights Watch researcher said.

Thousands took to the streets of DR Congo's capital, Kinshasa, on Monday to oppose an election delay which they call an effort by President Joseph Kabila to stay in power beyond the end of his mandate in late December.

A high court has determined Mr Kabila can stay in office until a new leader is elected. The electoral commission has filed for a delay in elections that were scheduled for November, saying voter registration lists will not be ready.

Gunshots could be heard on Tuesday in Kinshasa as tensions rose.

The UN human rights office noted reports of "excessive use of force" by both security forces and demonstrators. Both sides denied responsibility for the violence.

More than 25 people have been killed, said Joseph Olengankoy, an organiser of Monday's protests. Interior minister Evariste Boshab has said 17 were killed, including at least three police officers.

At least two people were killed after attacks on the headquarters of five opposition parties late on Monday, the UN and an opposition party said.

Bruno Tshibala, spokesman for the largest opposition party, said five were wounded in raids on four party headquarters.

"We will seek international justice," he said.

At least 44 dead amid street clashes and election protests in DR Congo

Government spokesman Lambert Mende condemned the burning of opposition party buildings as well as attacks on other buildings by opposition protesters.

Mr Mende called on Congolese to regain their composure and let justice do its work.

"The government can only condemn this mob justice mentality," he said.

Appeals for calm and restraint have been launched by the United Nations, Belgium, the US, France and the European Union, which also have called for a rapid organisation of presidential elections.

At least 44 dead amid street clashes and election protests in DR Congo

Mr Kabila, who came to power after his father's assassination in 2001, has yet to announce whether he will pursue another term in office, though the constitution prohibits it.

The violence comes amid growing fears that the election delay could lead to prolonged unrest in a nation as vast in size as Western Europe.

The mineral-rich but largely impoverished country suffered back-to-back civil wars until 2003, and previous instability has drawn in armies from neighbouring countries.

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