Kinshasa, DR Congo | AFP |
Two days of violence in Kinshasa left over 100 people dead, the Democratic Republic of Congo opposition said Wednesday, their figure more than tripling the police toll.
Police in DR Congo said earlier that 32 people had been killed during the clashes in the capital on Monday and Tuesday, as security forces brought a wave of violence and looting to an end.
Clashes on Monday and Tuesday saw people burned alive and attacks on police positions, but the worst unrest in the capital since January 2015 appeared to have fizzled out on Wednesday.
“The national police was backed by members of the (army) to stop the acts of looting and vandalism,” police spokesman Pierre-Rombaut Mwana-Mputu told reporters, adding that 32 lives were lost in the violence.
He also appealed for help in tracking down weapons stolen from a police station and a dozen other police positions that were looted and set on fire on Tuesday.
Traffic in the capital was lighter than usual on Wednesday and many schoolchildren remained at home. But residents were back on the streets, some inspecting shops and other buildings that were pillaged or gutted by fires.
The official death toll is below estimates from opposition groups, which said more than 50 people died on Monday, but broadly in line with the number given by Human Rights Watch, which put the toll at 37.
Opposition groups had called for demonstrations on Monday to demand the resignation of President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2001 and, under the constitution, should step down on December 20.
The rally had been due to start in the early afternoon, but scuffles between stone-throwing youths and anti-riot police in the morning escalated into what Interior Minister Evariste Boshab described as an attempted “uprising”.
Kabila is yet to call elections, fanning fears he plans to stay in power despite pressure to step aside when his mandate ends from his domestic political opponents, as well as the United Nations and Western powers.
‘Anger made people loot’
As shops and petrol stations reopened for business on Wednesday, there was anger as well as relief that the violence appeared to have ended — even if the underlying political tensions remain as live as ever.
“What happened yesterday and the day before was awful,” said Christian, 21, speaking outside a looted mobile phone shop in the southern Ndjili district.
“I’m not against people standing up for their rights but what I don’t like is rioting and looting,” he said, adding that companies offering rare work opportunities to the largely unemployed population had been targeted.
The worst of the clashes took place in the centre and south of the city, with police property and offices used by the ruling party and the UDPS opposition torched.
Several people were burned alive in the headquarters of the opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), led by veteran leader Etienne Tshisekedi.
The looted premises in Ndjili included a depot for agricultural produce set up by the government just two years ago. On Wednesday, there was no produce there, just empty containers.
“Most people can’t afford the corn produced in Congo,” said a man who gave just his first name Patrick. “It was anger that made people loot,” he added.
“We don’t have a particular problem with Kabila but we want him to say publicly that he does not plan to run for another term,” he said.
Political tension has gripped the DR Congo since Kabila’s disputed re-election in November 2011.
Tshisekedi, who officially came second in the poll, has never accepted his defeat and the resulting political deadlock has prevented any direct elections taking place since then.