December 22, 2016 / 9:30 AM / 8 months ago

Congo security forces killed at least 34 in anti-Kabila protests - HRW

Democratic Republic of Congo's President Joseph Kabila attends the leaders meeting at the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa July 15, 2012.Tiksa Negeri/Files

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Security forces in Democratic Republic of Congo killed at least 34 people during protests this week against President Joseph Kabila's failure to step down at the end of his mandate, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.

Congo's capital Kinshasa and other cities were convulsed by violent demonstrations on Tuesday as Kabila, in power since 2001, reached the end of his second term in office without an election in place to choose his successor.

Ida Sawyer, HRW's Central Africa director, said on Twitter that all the deaths occurred during the initial protests on Tuesday, raising the toll from an earlier count of 26.

She added that the group was also verifying additional reports of deaths. The Congolese government says 22 people died in the clashes, one of them a police officer, and that most were killed by stray bullets or while looting.

The constitution bars Kabila from standing for a new term but his government says it cannot organise the presidential election, originally scheduled for last month, until at least April 2018 due to delays in registering millions of voters.

Opposition leaders say the delay is a ploy by Kabila to cling to power and ultimately change the constitution to run again. Kabila denies the charges but has declined to publicly commit to not changing the constitution.

Editing by Tim Cocks and Tom Heneghan

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