Anti-president protests in DR Congo kills 7

The Secretary-General expresses concern about reports of the violent dispersion of protests by national security forces in Kinshasa and a number of cities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, resulting in the death of at least five people, the wounding of several others and the arrest of over 120 persons.

The delay has fuelled suspicions that Kabila will try to remove constitutional term limits that forbid him to run again, as presidents in neighbouring countries have done.

Trigger-happy security forces are notorious for using live ammunition against critics demanding the resignation of the strongman who assumed power after his father Laurent was assassinated in 2001.

"Eleven people died in Kinshasa and one in Kananga", Jonas Tshombela, a spokesman for the protest organisers, told AFP.

A government statement said one policeman had also been killed.

Internet cuts are common during anti-government demonstrations in the vast, mineral-rich central African country.

The protesters were seeking a promise from Kabila that he will not seek to further extend his time in power in the mostly Catholic former Belgian colony.

One parishioner who identified herself as Chantal said: "People fell, first-aiders are resuscitating old ladies who have fallen" - but added the priest carried on saying mass.

Kabila has ruled since 2001 and was due to step down in December, but an election to select a new leader has been delayed by his administration to the extent that one is not planned until December 2018.

"We can only denounce, condemn and stigmatise the behaviour of our supposedly courageous men in uniform, who, sadly, and no more or less, are channelling barbarism", he said.

Catholics in the capital, Kinshasa, prayed on Sunday.

At another church in the working-class district of Barumbu, a Reuters correspondent saw a few dozen police officers using tear gas and stun grenades against some 300 churchgoers, who waved bibles and sang religious songs as they tried to march.

Other protesters went back inside the church grounds and started singing for the Virgin Mary to "make Kabila go".

The country has not had a peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.

The protests were called by Catholic priests who led efforts to mediate in the crisis sparked when Mr Kabila refused to leave office at the end of his term in December 2016.

  • Jon Douglas