Democratic Republic of Congo's President Joseph Kabila. Picture: REUTERS/KENNY KATOMBE
Democratic Republic of Congo's President Joseph Kabila. Picture: REUTERS/KENNY KATOMBE

Kinshasa — The powerful Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo has said it supports calls for a nationwide stoppage on Friday in response to a bloody crackdown on protests against President Joseph Kabila.

An umbrella group of 10 pro-democracy groups has appealed for a "ghost town" protest, in which cities come to a standstill, over the deaths of two activists shot by police in demonstrations on February 25.

A church-backed group called the Lay Co-ordination Committee on Thursday said that it "completely supported" the initiative.

The deaths on February 25 added to 15 killings in marches on December 31 and January 21, according to UN and church figures. The three rallies, organised by the committee have thrown an international spotlight on the tension in the nation.

Kabila was due to stand down from office in December 2016, ending his second elected term. However, he has controversially stayed on under laws enabling him to retain power until his successor is elected. The latest timetable to hold elections is for December 23 — a year later than scheduled under a December 31 2016 peace deal brokered by the church.

AFP