The Democratic Republic of Congo riot police have killed at least five people in the capital Kinshasa during banned anti-government protests organised by the Catholic church.
They fired tear gas to disperse the protesters who had gathered after Sunday mass to demand the resignation of the president Joseph Kabila whose tenure had expired since December 2016.
According to witnesses who spoke to Reuters, police and paramilitary troops fired tear gas and shot in the air outside the Notre Dame cathedral in Kinshasa resulting in the deaths.
33 people were wounded and 49 arrested in the protest that spread to the central Congolese diamond-mining town of Mbuji-Mayi, said Florence Marchal, spokesman for the U.N. mission (MONUSCO).
The protest is a follow up to that of New Year’s day that resulted in the death of seven people after police stormed Catholic churches in the capital and fired tear gas.
The Catholic church was pivotal in mediation between the government and the opposition forces, yet, Kabila failed to follow the agreement he signed pledging to step down at the end of last year for peace to prevail.
46-year-old Joseph Kabila also failed to fulfil his promise of holding elections at the end of 2017 which will see him hand over power to another government since his full two-term limit had ended in December 2016.
He has again postponed the election to December 2018 with the backing of the National Assembly, judiciary and the electoral commission which has stated that it can’t organise the polls due to inadequate logistics.
The delays have triggered suspicion that Kabila wants to alter the constitution to allow him to contest again for president despite his ineligibility.
The protests organised by the Catholic church have been supported by international bodies and countries including the United States, United Kingdom and Switzerland.
“We applaud Congolese citizens exercising their constitutional right to assemble peacefully in support of the full implementation of the [agreement]. Those who do not protect these rights must be held accountable,” said the U.S. and British embassies in a joint statement.