Death toll from DR Congo violence now 12 - protesters


Congolese security forces shot dead a man and injured several others on Sunday in a bloody crackdown on Catholic worshippers who gathered at churches across the country to demand President Joseph Kabila leave power.

U.N. Congo mission spokeswoman Florence Marchal said at least 82 people have been arrested across the country in connection with Sunday's protests.

In tweets, the United Nations human rights office in Congo condemned "the use of force against peaceful demonstrators" and the "violent suppression of fundamental rights and freedoms by security forces".

The global rights group's Central Africa director, Ida Sawyer, said on Sunday the two men were killed outside St Alphonse church in the Matete district as security forces dispersed peaceful protesters.

On Sunday, he had said three civilians - "robbers" and "looters" - had been killed, in incidents that had occurred far from the protests. He said a police officer also died.

"Eleven people died in Kinshasa and one in Kananga", Jonas Tshombela, a spokesman for the protest organisers, told AFP.

"Freedom of worship, guaranteed in every democratic state, was assailed, churches were desecrated and members of the faithful, including altar boys and priests, were physically assaulted", it said, demanding a "serious and objective investigation".

Kabila, whose mandate ended in December 2016, had agreed to set an election date by the end of 2017. Organised by the Catholic church, the protests called for Kabila to step aside and allow new elections to held.

Authorities on Saturday ordered all internet and text messaging services cut until further notice.

Tshisekedi, however, who had backed the activists' call to march, left the church in a vehicle, spurring angry shouts from the crowd, which said he was abandoning them. Police responded with tear gas in some areas of Kinshasa.

António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, expressed concern about the outcome of the New Year protests.

Kabila has ruled since 2001 and was due to step down in December, but an election to select a new leader has been delayed by his administration to the extent that one is not planned until December 2018.

The delay has fuelled suspicions Kabila will try to remove constitutional term limits that forbid him from running again, as presidents in neighbouring countries have done.

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