DRC rights group blames government, parties for deadly unrest

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Flares are launched by DRCongo Police forces during a demonstration in Goma on September 19, 2016.

KINSHASA - DR Congo's independent human rights commission has blamed both the government and the opposition for the deaths of 46 people, most of them by gunfire, in clashes in Kinshasa in September.

Scores more were hurt in the capital, Kinshasa, when "non-identified elements in the police" and "protesters using stolen weapons" clashed on 19 and 20 September in opposition protests against President Joseph Kabila, a report by the CNDH commission said.

The release on Wednesday of the report, the first since the commission was set up in July 2015, was hailed by the European Union, a major donor to the DRC.

The country has experienced months of trouble ahead of the official end of Kabila's mandate on 20 December, his second term in office.

He is barred from serving again but has never said he plans to step aside and last month cut a power-sharing deal with fringe opposition politician Samy Badibanga as prime minister --  a move that effectively extends his term to early 2018.

The CNDH toll for the September protests, which were organised by anti-Kabila coalition Gathering, was slightly lower than the UN toll of 53 dead.

Gathering brings together mainstream opposition parties that back longtime Kabila rival, Etienne Tshisekedi.

READ: UN mission in the DRC braces for clashes as leader's term ends

There were signs of an easing of political tension in the country this week when Tshisekedi agreed to join mediation talks headed by the country's bishops, the deputy secretary of the National Episcopal Conference said.

The talks, which aim to agree on a transition ahead of April 2018 presidential elections, showed "there is goodwill all round", said Andre Masinganda.

Tshisekedi's Gathering had snubbed talks involving the authorities up until this week.

The formal talks are set to start on Thursday,  8 December in Kinshasa, according to a statement released late Tuesday.

However the UN mission in Congo, MONUSCO, is bracing for violence ahead of 20 December, UN special representative to the DRC Maman Sambo Sidikou said in New York on Tuesday.

"MONUSCO has further updated its contingency plans and is further adjusting its posture and deployment to mitigate politically driven violence and to protect civilians," he said.