Witnesses said the police fired tear gas into the sanctuary of St. Michael Parish in Bandalungwa, a neighborhood in central Kinshasa, forcing the services to end, worshipers to leave and the church to close.
An activist, Bienvenu Matumo, who is a member of the youth movement Lucha (Lutte Pour Le Changement) said two people were shot dead by security forces in Kinshasa. Among those killed in the Matete neighborhood of the capital was a 16-year-old girl. He also said a third person attempting to protest in Kananga in Central Kasai was also killed.
Twelve altar boys were arrested at St. Joseph’s parish, in another neighborhood of Kinshasa. A freelance journalist, Eliezer Ntambwe, who was at the church, said he and a colleague were also arrested.
“I saw several soldiers dressed in three different outfits, Mr. Ntambwe said. “Some fired rubber bullets, and others fired real bullets.”
On the other side of the country in Beni, in North Kivu Province, video footage shared with The New York Times showed a dozen police officers beating a passer-by, even as another man tried to drag him away.
The sound of tear-gas fire could be heard in the background. Witnesses said five others had been injured by the police in that encounter.
Security forces also set up roadblocks in several parts in the capital and were stopping and searching vehicles.
As Mr. Kabila’s government has stalled in organizing elections, anger across the country has risen. Last year, a group of Catholic bishops in Congo brokered an agreement that allowed the president to lead a transitional government until the end of 2017, when he was supposed to step down.
Elections were also supposed to be held by the end of 2017, according to the agreement. But elections officials said they could not meet that schedule and pushed the vote to 2019.
The delay sparked opposition in Congo and heightened diplomatic pressure from outside the country. In a visit to Kinshasa in October, Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, insisted that a vote be held by the end of 2018. The Congolese national elections commission later scheduled elections for the end of next December.
Most observers, however, inside and outside of Congo believe Mr. Kabila intends to remain in office, fitting a pattern in the region.
Neighboring Rwanda changed its constitution in 2015 to allow President Paul Kagame to run for election a third time, and he won handily in August. That same year, President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi muscled his way into a third term in office, after a boycotted election and a failed coup.
And in December, Uganda’s Parliament lifted a constitutional age limit on the presidency that would have forced President Yoweri Museveni to step down after his fifth term expires in 2021.