Democratic Republic of Congo security forces fired tear gas and fought running battles in the streets of the capital Kinshasa with anti-government protesters demonstrating on Saturday over alleged irregularities in voter registration.
The protesters are also angry over the rising cost of living and the prolonged insecurity in the east of the country, where armed militias and rebel groups have been carrying out attacks that have killed hundreds and displaced over a million.
Around a dozen protesters were detained by security forces just after the start of the demonstration, which was called for by opposition leaders.
“The procession is not allowed to come here, this is not the authorised route,” police commander Faustin Numbi said at the scene of the clashes.
Congo is due to hold a general election on Dec. 20 in which President Felix Tshisekedi is expected to seek a second term.
But political tension is on the rise in the world’s leading cobalt producer, with some opposition candidates complaining of delays and alleged irregularities in a voter registration drive that they say is being conducted to their disadvantage.
Four opposition leaders including Martin Fayulu, who came second in the 2018 presidential election, and Moise Katumbi, a millionaire businessman and former regional governor who is expected to run in 2023, called for the protest on Saturday.
“It’s sad, you see, they are firing tear gas. Just before, it was real ammunition,” Katumbi told journalists near the protest venue in Kinshasa.
Fayulu said by telephone that his vehicle was surrounded by security forces who continued to fire tear gas to disperse demonstrators.
“The electoral register is not reliable and we’ll not compromise on this issue,” Fayulu added.
Congo’s electoral commission is expected to publish voter registration data on Sunday.