A jail raid in Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital on Thursday killed a police officer, police and diplomatic sources said, and President Joseph Kabila failed to appear on television for a customary address, heightening fears over security.
Kabila was due to address the nation on Thursday on the eve of Independence Day. Instead, scrolling text on screen attributed to Kabila read: “I regret that, for reasons of health, I cannot this year address to you my message in the usual manner.”
An adviser to Kabila told reporters earlier that the government would not hold its annual independence day military parade on Friday because of security concerns.
In the capital Kinshasa, unknown assailants with firearms and machetes attacked a prison.
National police spokesman Colonel Pierre Mwanamputu said police killed one of the “bandits” and captured three others. Four officers were wounded and some prisoners escaped, he said, but did not say how many.
Police and diplomatic sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a police officer was killed in the clashes in Kinshasa’s bustling Matonge neighborhood.
Dozens of heavily-armed police and soldiers were deployed to the area and security was reinforced around the state television building several kilometers away.
“There was gunfire. I saw a woman wounded in her leg by a bullet,” said one witness who asked not to be named.
Thousands of inmates have escaped from jails this year in Congo, including about 4,000 from Kinshasa’s main high-security prison last month in an attack blamed on a separatist sect from southwest Congo.
The raids have underscored the deteriorating security situation in the wake of Kabila’s refusal to step down at the end of his mandate in December.
Rising militia violence and a humanitarian crisis have unsettled Africa’s largest copper producer in recent months and raised fears of a return to the civil wars of the turn of the century that killed millions.
Fighting between government forces and a local militia in the central Kasai region has killed more than 3,300 people and forced 1.3 million to flee their homes since August.
Independence day parades have been held in each of the last three years to mark the end of Belgian colonial rule in 1960 and have been used to show off the central African country’s latest arms acquisitions.