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DR Congo police attack protesters in anti-government rally

People look on as protesters burn tires during a demonstration calling for the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to step down, in Kinshasa, the DR Congo, on January 21, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

At least two people have been wounded in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) during attempts by police to break up a banned protest against the Central African country’s president, Joseph Kabila.

The violence erupted in the DR Congo’s third largest city of Kisangani on Sunday when security forces tried to disperse hundreds of people marching after Mass at the city’s cathedral.

Police reportedly fired live bullets and tear gas canisters.

At least two people suffered bullet injuries and three priests were arrested as they led the march in the Saint Pierre de Wagenia district in the east of Kisangani, according to an AFP journalist.

The anti-government protest backed by the church had been organized in response to Kabila’s refusal to step down despite the expiration of his mandate.

President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Joseph Kabila holds a press conference in the capital, Kinshasa, January 26, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Previous anti-Kabila protests on New Year’s Eve and late January descended into a bloody crackdown after police and security forces opened fire on demonstrators.

Tolls given by protest organizers and the United Nations said a total of 15 people had been killed by police forces during the previous rounds of unrest, while the government put the number of the deaths at two.

Kabila has been in power since 2001, at the helm of a government widely criticized for corruption, repression, and incompetence.

The 46-year-old’s constitutional term in office expired in December 2016, but he has controversially stayed on under laws enabling him to retain power until his successor is elected.

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