Kinshasa: At least two students were wounded Monday when police opened fire on thousands of protesters opposed to extending President Joseph Kabila`s hold on power in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The students were shot near the University of Kinshasa after police warned they would open fire if protesters failed to leave, an AFP correspondent and witnesses saw.
Opposition sources said security forces shot and wounded a third person as they broke up a crowd demonstrating near the parliament building in the capital.
Hundreds of rock-hurling youths battled with police, who responded by firing tear gas in neighbourhoods around the capital as tyres burned at several main intersections and a police helicopter buzzed overhead.
The protesters had been called into the streets by DRC opposition leaders outraged by an elections bill that would delay presidential and parliamentary polls beyond late 2016, when Kabila is meant to step down.
Leaders in several African nations have sought in recent months to extend their hold on power by changing the constitution and have met stiff opposition.
Burkina Faso`s president Blaise Compaore was chased from power in October when he tried to change the constitution.
In several corners of Kinshasa, the normally bustling city took on a ghost town-like feel. Streets were deserted, public transit was interrupted and many children were kept home from school.
From 8 am (0700 GMT), police and elite troops of the Republican Guard sealed off the parliament building, where the lower house on Saturday passed the controversial bill.
The legislation was due to go for debate Monday before the Senate, the upper house of parliament, while police and soldiers were stationed at every major road junction in the Gombe district, where ministries and administrative buildings are located.Police also surrounded the headquarters of the third biggest opposition party, the Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC), after members of all leading opposition parties urged Kinshasa residents "massively to occupy" parliament on Monday to hamper the debate.
"It is impounding of democracy by the political allies of Mr Kabila," UNC president Vital Kamerhe said of the police presence around his headquarters.
Kabila has ruled over the vast and troubled central African country since he was catapulted into office as a young soldier by Kinshasa politicians in 2001, days after his father, then president Laurent-Desire Kabila, was assassinated.
In 2006, three years after multiple peace deals ended a bloody war which embroiled troops from at least six foreign countries, Kabila won the first free, democratic presidential poll since independence from Belgium in 1960.
Elections that year were enabled by a large UN peacekeeping force first deployed during conflict. The results were considered largely fair, but when Kabila won a second and final five-year term in 2011, his victory was disputed by domestic and foreign observers.
The opposition accuses Kabila of trying to delay elections by insisting that a new census must first take place -- a process that analysts say would take as long as three years.