Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein UN rights chief raps Congo after at least 50 killed in protests

Congo's attorney general vowed on Wednesday to hunt down and punish those responsible for Monday's riots.

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Congolese civilians walk past a house and vehicles which were burnt during anti-government protests to press President Joseph Kabila to step down in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa play Congolese civilians walk past a house and vehicles which were burnt during anti-government protests to press President Joseph Kabila to step down in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa, September 21, 2016. (REUTERS/Kenny Katombe)
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The U.N. human rights chief accused Congolese authorities on Thursday of taking an "extremely confrontational position" towards anti-government protesters and urged them to seek dialogue with the opposition.

Democratic Republic of Congo has for months suffered simmering anger over what opponents of President Joseph Kabila believe are his efforts to hold on to power beyond his constitutional term limit, either by delaying elections or revising the constitution, as other African leaders have done.

U.N. rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein said the death toll from clashes between protesters and security forces on Monday in the Congolese capital Kinshasa had risen to at least 50. The government has put the death toll at 32.

"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 defense and security forces against demonstrators in the capital," he said.

Congo's attorney general vowed on Wednesday to hunt down and punish those responsible for Monday's riots.

The electoral commission has said that polls that were supposed to happen in November will now not go ahead until at least next year, increasing concerns that Kabila plans to hold on to power beyond his constitutional mandate.

Kabila's office, in a statement on Wednesday, called for calm and invited "the entire population to go about their daily activities now that security is again fully ensured".

World powers, especially the United States, have heaped pressure on Kabila to respect the constitution and hold elections on time. They are also growing increasingly concerned over what they say are efforts to stifle peaceful protest.

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