United Nations Secretary-General expressed deep concern about the violent clashes between protestors and security forces in Kinshasa, and several other locations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“He condemns the violence that has already led to the death of at least 17 people, including three police officers in the capital,” according to a statement issued by Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson in New York.

The Secretary-General in his statement urged all concerned political leaders and their supporters to refrain from any further violence that could exacerbate the situation.

“He calls on the Congolese authorities to ensure that the national security forces exercise maximum restraint in their response to protests,” the statement said, adding that the UN chief also called on all political leaders to address their differences peacefully and through dialogue, in line with Security Council resolution 2277 (2016).

Ban’s call follows similar concern was expressed over the weekend by the UN Mission in the DRC, known by the French acronym MONUSCO, which noted that 16 civil society activists of the Union of Congolese Youth for Change were arrested on Sept 15-16 in Kinshasa while holding an activity on electoral civic education. The arrests were conducted by ANR and PNC officers.

The mission recalled that the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly are fundamental rights enshrined in the Congolese constitution.

Maman Sambo Sidikou, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in the DRC and Head of MONUSCO, called upon all actors in the political process to “abide by the tenets of the Constitution, including peaceful freedom of expression,” whether politicians, civil society activists or media organizations.

On another development, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the country (MINUSCA) has condemning recent violence in Ndomete and Kaga Bandoro in Central African Republic (CAR).

MINUSCA called on local communities to remain calm and underlined its right to take appropriate measures to prevent destabilization of the situation.

“[We call] on Kaga Bandoro’s communities to remain calm and affirm [our] right to take appropriate measures to prevent destabilization of the situation, protect civilians in line with [our] mandate, and ensure the country’s territorial integrity,” the Mission said in a news release.

According to the news release, clashes broke out on Sept 16 between anti-Balaka and ex- Seleka groups in Ndomete and Kaga Bandoro, leaving at least six civilians dead and many, including an aid worker injured.

UN staff premises were also looted in Kaga Bandoro, the release noted.

In response to the situation, the Mission said that it has reinforced its military presence in the affected areas and deployed UN peacekeepers to strengthen the security situation. It also said that is also deploying a human rights team from capital Bangui to assess the situation.

MINUSCA further noted that continues to monitor the situation and remains in contact with national and local authorities to stop the violence.

More than three years of civil war and sectarian violence have displaced thousands of people in the CAR amid continuing clashes between the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel coalition and anti-Balaka militia, which are mostly Christian.