Zuma urges DRC to exercise restraint to end violent clashes

Zuma says the violence threatens the hard won democratic gains made by the DRC through the past two elections.

President Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - President Jacob Zuma has called on the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo to exercise restraint and to take urgent steps to end the violent and deadly clashes in that country.

At least 50 people have been killed since anti-government riots broke out on Monday over Congolese President Joseph Kabila's perceived bid to extend his rule.

Zuma says the violence threatens the hard won democratic gains made by the DRC through the past two elections.

The president has also sent his condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and has wished those injured a speedy recovery.

International Relations spokesperson Clayson Monyela says: "We urge everybody to participate in the national dialogue which we believe will bring about peace and also leads to the adoption of the roadmap."

Meanwhile, the UN Human Rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein strongly condemned this week's fatal shooting of anti-government protesters in DRC and urged the government on Thursday to seek dialogue with the opposition.

Congolese authorities have said elections due in November cannot be held until at least next year due to logistical problems. Kabila denies opponents' charges of trying to cling to power beyond a two-term limit in the vast central African country, a producer of gold, diamonds and copper.

"The writing is on the wall and the authorities need to pull back from their extremely confrontational position and build bridges with the opposition," Zeid said in a statement.

"Some civilians were killed by gunshots to the head or chest and I strongly condemn the clearly excessive use of force by defence and security forces against demonstrators in the capital," he said in Geneva.

Congolese government spokesperson Lambert Mende criticised French President Francois Hollande for comments in New York on Tuesday in which he blamed authorities for the deaths and urged them not to delay the election.

"Hollande, with the accent of a schoolteacher, has poured scorn on the Congolese government which he blames for the violence," Mende said, adding that Hollande had ignored attacks by protesters on buildings of pro-government political parties.

Mende played down an incident at the weekend in which

Washington said its Special Envoy to the Great Lakes of Africa, Tom Perriello, was obstructed and harassed at the airport as he was leaving Kinshasa.

Mende said there was no aggression from security officials or from ruling party deputies, who instead engaged in "lively debate" with Perriello.