U.N. Criticizes Congo for Response to Deadly Unrest

deadly clashes  in Kinshasa KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo — The United Nations high commissioner for human rights blamed the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday for using excessive force during political demonstrations and riots this week that may have killed more than 50 people. The deadly unrest convulsed Kinshasa, the capital, as the country slides into a period of dangerous political uncertainty. The president, Joseph Kabila, is required by the Constitution to step down in December, but he has shown no inclination to do so, and his government has not announced when the next election might be. For the first time in days, most stores reopened on Thursday and a beat of normal life returned to Kinshasa. The streets were plugged with traffic, and moving markets of thousands of women selling soda, bananas, vegetables and baguettes from their atop their heads streamed by. On Monday, opposition supporters had rampaged through several Kinshasa slum areas burning cars, smashing into stores, looting banks, and attacking police officers and the offices of Mr. Kabila’s political party. The next day, the headquarters of several opposition parties were hit with grenades and machine-gun fire, killing at least half a dozen people. Witnesses said the attackers had been soldiers in uniform. Some opposition supporters were burned to death, their charred bodies found face up in the rubble. The United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said on Thursday that he had been “particularly shocked at reports that some men in uniform took a direct part in some of the attacks against the headquarters of six opposition political parties.” He also said that civilians had been shot in the head and chest and that Mr. Kabila’s government had deployed the Republican Guard, a heavily armed military unit that is considered the most loyal to him, for crowd control. Many fear that violence will return as the Dec. 20 deadline for Mr. Kabila to leave office draws closer. He has been president for more than 15 years and has been elected twice, the limit established by the Constitution. Congo has been racked by intermittent bursts of turbulence and war since the mid-1990s, when a rebellion pushed out the longstanding dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and brought Mr. Kabila’s father, Laurent Kabila, to power. The elder Mr. Kabila was assassinated in 2001, and soon after, his son was thrust into the presidency at age 29. Western nations have been pleading with Mr. Kabila to leave office to avoid more chaos. The Congolese government has been trying to persuade opposition leaders to accept a delay in the elections. Several main opposition figures have said they will support a delay under one condition: that Mr. Kabila step down. Mr. Kabila has not explicitly said that he will do that, and many fear he will try to maintain his grip on power. Source