Sporadic gunfire echoed across Democratic Republic of Congo's capital yesterday, the day after security forces killed at least 26 protesters demanding President Joseph Kabila step down after his mandate as elected leader expired. A government spokesman could not be reached to comment on the nationwide death toll, compiled by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), which said it was yet to give a final tally.
The United Nations human rights director for the vast central African state said it had "solid" reports of at least 20 dead civilians in the capital, Kinshasa.
Some Kinshasa residents ventured from their homes on Wednesday morning but most streets were clear of traffic and public transport was extremely limited.
Africa and the West fear the political crisis around Kabila could spiral into a broader conflict, triggering a repeat of the 1996-2003 wars that killed millions and sucked in half a dozen neighboring countries' armies.
The former Belgian colony has never experienced a peaceful transition of power.
Kabila's government blamed delays in the election on problems with registering millions of voters, and the constitutional court ruled in May that Kabila could stay in power until the delayed vote in April 2018. However, the main opposition faction in parliament refused to endorse the deal to allow him to stay on.
About the author
Research Associate at Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) at Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University