Two people and a child were killed in a town in eastern DR Congo on Monday when police opened fire at a protest over poor security, a local official told reporters.
“There was a demonstration in which three people have just died — a young man of about 25 who was shot in the abdomen and died in the hospital, a Pygmy who was shot and died immediately, and another child who was shot and also died,” said Donat Kibwana, chief administrator for the Beni region.
The incident happened in Oicha, a town about 30 kilometres north of the city of Beni.
Beni is the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province, where murder, extortion and other crimes are rampant.
The region, which is also struggling with an epidemic of Ebola, is in the grip of militias who have killed hundreds of people over the last five years.
The Oicha protest came a day after an attack attributed to a Ugandan Muslim militia called the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in which two people were killed.
Noella Katongerwaki, a representative of grassroots groups in the Beni region, said:
“The police dispersed the protesters with live rounds and teargas. Right now, the toll is three dead, including a Pygmy woman.”
Another activist, Janvier Kasairio, said ordinary life in Oicha on Monday had “stopped”.
“We call on the army to do its job. We don’t understand why our army can’t provide security for us against the ADF.”
The police said some protesters at Monday’s rally had been carrying weapons.
“We saw young people suddenly appear on the street, others barricaded the main road, we dispersed them but some were armed,” said Beni police chief Umbi Azalendanya.
“Two are already under arrest for possession of a firearm,” he told reporters.
Provincial Deputy, Jean Paul Ngahangondi said the police should have supervised the protesters instead of killing them.
“We cannot kill citizens because they protest, it is unacceptable,” he said.
“We demand investigations so that the killer police officers are judged.”
The home of a police officer accused of shooting the young man was set fire by angry residents.
Protesters at a rally further south in the city of Butembo set fire to tyres and blocked off a road, but police dispersed them without any damage caused, witnesses told reporters.
Eastern DR Congo has been riven by insecurity for 25 years.
Just last week a report by Human Rights Watch and the Congo Research Group said that more than 130 armed groups in the country’s North and South Kivu provinces killed 1,900 civilians and abducted 3,300 over the last two years.