More than 50 people were killed in clashes between protesters and security forces in the Congolese capital Kinshasa, opposition groups said, calling for further anti-government demonstrations.
The government earlier said that at least 17 had died in the violence in Kinshasa ahead of a planned opposition rally, but had warned that the death toll could rise.
“The coalition (of opposition groups) deplores the number of victims, more than 50 dead at this point, victims of the firing of real bullets by the police and the republican guard,” it said in a statement yesterday.
It also called on people to gather on Tuesday “to keep up without hesitation the demands made today.”
The rally, which the authorities cancelled, had been called to demand the resignation of President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2001. Opponents fear he is planning to extend his rule unconstitutionally.
The clashes Monday were the worst violence in the capital since January 2015 when a police crackdown on another opposition protest left several dozen people dead.
Interior Minister Evariste Boshab described the violence as an attempted “uprising” and said the victims included three police officers.
The main opposition parties had called for a nationwide demonstration to “give notice” to Kabila, whose mandateexpires on December 20.
Although Kabila is banned by the constitution from running again, he has not made any move to schedule elections,fuelling fears he will seek to extend his stay in office.
In May, the Constitutional Court said Kabila could remain in office in a caretaker capacity until an election is held, triggering a wave of angry protests.
France yesterday described the unrest as “very dangerous and extremely worrying” and urged Kabila to lay out a clear timetable for a vote.
“What matters is the date of elections,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
“If they’re delayed endlessly, that means that Kabila intends to stay in power,” he said.
“That’s a situation that is not acceptable.”
Former colonial power Belgium called in a foreign ministry statement for “restraint” and urged all political groups to “quickly” organise elections.
So far, there has been no move to schedule elections and at this stage, it appears practically impossible to organise a poll before the end of the year.