The United Nations has warned President Joseph Kabila led government in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) against suppressing rights of expression as protests calling on him to step down heighten.
A total of eight people were killed on the eve of the new year and several others arrested as Congolese security forces cracked down on protesters who defied a government ban to demonstrate in Kinshasa and other cities.
Other civilians have been arrested and some killed in similar clashes in the eastern city of Goma.
Spates of protests have broken out since President Kabila refused to step down after his constitutional two year term expired in 2016.
The country was scheduled to elect Kabila’s successor by the end of 2017 under a church-mediated deal but elections were pushed forward until December 23, 2018.
The electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) claims the electoral exercise is stalled by the compilation of voter register in some volatile parts of the country.
In a statement released on Sunday, the office of the UN Secretary General, Antonio Gueterres urged authorities in DRC, particularly security forces to exercise restraint and uphold the rights of the Congolese people to the freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.
“The secretary-general urges all Congolese political actors to remain fully committed to the 31 December 2016 political agreement, which remains the only viable path to the holding of elections, the peaceful transfer of power and the consolidation of stability in the DRC,” read the statement.
The call come at the heels of several other appeals from the international community for Kabila to respect the 2016 political agreement so as to prevent further violence.
On Monday, the head of La Francophonie, the world organisation of French-speaking nations, Michaelle Jean condemned “unspeakable attacks” against worshippers and other civilians by government authorities.
“Participating in a protest is a fundamental right,” she said in a statement.
Kabila came to power after his late father, Laurent Kabila was murdered in 2001. The vast but poverty stricken Central African country has not witnessed a peaceful power transition since 1960 when it secured its independence from Belgium.
Opposition parties are slated to hold rallies on Wednesday to protest against the December 2018 date for general elections.