Two people were killed during weekend marches in the Democratic Republic of Congo calling for President Joseph Kabila to step down, the latest of several demonstrations forcefully put down by authorities.
Bishop Donatien Nshole, whose organisation supported the rallies, told AFP one man was killed in the capital Kinshasa and another died when he was shot by a guard in the northwestern city of Mbandaka during Sunday’s rallies.
The head of the UN’s DR Congo mission Leila Zerrougui said in a statement she “regrets that at least two people were killed… despite instructions given to security forces to show restraint.”
The Congolese police, for its part, said no one had died during the demonstrations.
A group linked to the influential Catholic Church said that as many as three million people had taken part in rallies nationwide, though this figure was not possible to independently verify.
In DR Congo’s second city Lubumbashi, youths set tyres on fire before being dispersed by riot police.
The church-backed protests came after months of tension sparked by Kabila’s prolonged rule and a long-delayed election in the vast and chronically unstable country.
Kabila was due to stand down from office in December 2016, ending his second elected term, but he has controversially stayed on under laws enabling him to retain power until his successor is elected.
In January, he accused the church of interfering in Congolese politics.
Previous protests on New Year’s Eve and January 21 saw a total of 15 people killed by security forces, according to tolls given by organisers and the United Nations.
The government said just two people died.
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