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Demonstrators Call For Congo Government to Resign

Demonstrators throw debris into a burning roadblock in Kinshasa
Thousands of people took to the streets of Kinshasa Thursday calling for the resignation of the transitional government. But the demonstrations turned violent when security forces clamped down on the protests, firing live rounds and tear gas, killing several people, injuring dozens, and arresting hundreds more.

The Congolese are supposed to celebrate independence from their Belgian colonial masters every June 30. But preparations for the 45th anniversary of Congo's independence, was marked by fears of violent protests.

And when thousands of civilians took to the streets calling for the country's fragile government to resign because of their failure to organize elections this June, riot police and heavily armed security services responded with tear gas and bursts of automatic fire.

During hours of running battles, during which opposition supporters threw rocks and set up barricades, the United Nations says at least two people were killed, several dozen injured, and more than 400 arrested.

With military helicopters flying overhead, hundreds of men from various armed units blocked roads and dispersed crowds as soon as they gathered or people tried to move towards the center of town.

The opposition party said their protest was peaceful and had been turned violent by the authorities. But the government said those on the streets were just looking to cause trouble and were breaking the law.

Frustration mounted in Kinshasa during the past few months as it became clear that the elections that were to conclude a period of transition from war to democracy would not take place on time.

Government wrangling, fighting in the lawless east and the logistical nightmare of holding elections in Congo - a country the size of western Europe but with no roads to speak of - mean the polls will not take place until next year.

Although the transitional period can and has been extended, the opposition says the government cannot be trusted and must be replaced.