Violence escalates in DR Congo following allegations that President Joseph Kabila is planning to remain in office.
The headquarters of three opposition parties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were torched by unidentified assailants on Tuesday, one day after violent protests, leaving at least two dead inside.
The renewed violence came after a bloody day on Monday during which opposition groups said more than 50 people had died in protests calling for Kabila’s resignation.
The targeted buildings included the leading opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), as well as the Forces of Union and Solidarity (FONUS) and the Lumumbist Progressive Movement (MLP).
The national secretary of the main opposition group blamed a “commando” unit from the government for torching the opposition headquarters buildings.
“Does a normal state respond with reprisals?” said Felix Tshisekedi from the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS).
At least two burnt bodies could be seen in the fire-ravaged UDPS offices. Two others were burned alive and another injured, AFP journalists said.
Flames tore through all three headquarters, located in the capital Kinshasa, throughout the early morning on Tuesday. Fighting through tears, a woman described as being aged in her 40s told AFP that her husband was inside the UDPS office when attackers hit. “I’ve just put my husband’s body in the morgue. He was killed in the clashes.”
Opposition groups contradicted the death toll, saying at least 50 people were killed as security forces fired live ammunition on protesters in the worst clash the country has witnessed since a bloody police crackdown in January 2015.
The violent anti-government protests have intensified in the central African country as pressure mounts on President Joseph Kabila to step down from his position when his term ends on December 20.
Earlier this year in May, the Constitutional Court claimed that Kabila, who has ruled the region since 2001, could remain in office in a caretaker capacity until an election is held, triggering a wave of angry protests.
Kabila was catapulted into power as a young soldier by Kinshasa politicians, a day after his father was assasinated.
In 2006, three years after multiple peace deals ended a bloody war that embroiled troops from at least six foreign countries, Kabila won the first free, democratic presidential poll since independence from Belgium in 1960. A large UN peacekeeping force deployed during conflict enabled elections to take place in 2016.
The overarching consensus was that these elections were fair. But when Kabila won a second and final five-year term in 2011, his victory was disputed by domestic and foreign observers.
Opposition parties accuse Kabila of conspiring to extend his mandate by delaying general elections, initially set to take place in November, to next year at the very least. Government supporters deny the claims.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault described the magnitude of the situation in Congo as “extremely worrying and very dangerous”, adding that European nations will discuss the possibility of imposing sanctions.
The vast, mineral-rich central African state has never seen a peaceful transition of power