Kinshasa, DR Congo | AFP | Twelve people were killed Monday by stray gunfire in a wave of violence in Kinshasa, a spokesman for the national police said, accusing a political-religious sect opposed to President Joseph Kabila.
The toll was a provisional estimate, Pierrot Rombaut Mwanamputu said in an emergency broadcast that broke into programming on public television.
“Sadly, we must at this stage give a provisional toll of loss of human life, of 12 people hit by stray bullets,” Mwanamputu said as violence struck two days before the start of a planned series of opposition protests.
Opposition supporters are demanding the publication of an electoral calendar, elections and Kabila’s departure from office.
Kabila, in power since 2001, is seeking to stay on despite constitutional limits on his terms in office.
Under a transitional deal aimed at avoiding violence in the sprawling, mineral rich country of 71 million people, Kabila, who failed to step down when his second mandate expired last December, will stay in office pending elections later this year.
Mwanamputu said two police officers had been “lynched” and were in critical condition after the Kinshasa attack.
He added two more people had died and three police were seriously injured in further violence at Matadi, a port city on the River Congo in the neighbouring province of Kongo Central.
Sustained gunfire had been reported earlier close to the central prison in the Congolese capital, where more than 4,000 people escaped in May, and in the districts of Matete and Ndjili, residents and activists said.
Violence also hit the district of Tshangu.
“There has been gunfire around Makala prison for about the last hour. There’s no traffic and the streets are empty,” Emmanuel Cole, a campaigner for prisoners’ rights, said from the nearby district of Selembao.
An AFP journalist saw pools of blood outside the prison Monday, as well as a body of a man who had been stabbed to death outside a nearby clinic.
– ‘Hostile slogans’ –
Mwanamputu accused the Bundu Dia Mayala nationalist group opposed to Kabila of being behind the unrest, describing them as lawless elements.
He said members of the group, sporting red bandanas, had sprung their attack while chanting “prayers and slogans hostile to legally established institutions.”
Mwanamputu said Monday’s trouble started around 9.50am (0850 GMT) but security forces had dealt with it “in less than two hours by dispersing (the attackers) with tear gas.
“The situation is currently under control, all is back to normal,” he said.
In a separate development, a military tribunal in Kananga, in DR Congo’s troubled region of Kasai, gave an important procedural ruling on Monday in the case of two UN experts who were killed in March.
Michael Sharp, an American, and Zaida Catalan, a Swedish-Chilean dual national, were found murdered after they went to investigate violence in the region which began to flare in August 2016.
A UN specialist panel in New York said the attack was an ambush and did not rule out that members of the security forces may have been involved.
The tribunal, which is ruling in the case, gave the go-ahead for all parties to go to the scene of the crime.
The visit will take place on August 21, it said.