US embassy in Congo says family members can return after evacuation

Family members of US personnel in Democratic Republic of Congo can return to the country, the US embassy said late on Friday, one week after ordering them to leave over safety concerns related to the volatile political climate.

At least 50 people were killed last month in anti-government protests in the capital Kinshasa and the United States has slapped sanctions on three members of President Joseph Kabila's inner circle for allegedly committing human rights abuses and helping block planned elections.

"The order to depart was made last week out of an abundance of caution considering the unstable and unpredictable security situation in the DRC," the embassy said in a statement on its Facebook page.

"In our latest re-evaluation, we have assessed that security conditions permit the return of family members," it added.

Kabila, who has ruled Africa's top copper producer since his father's assassination in 2001, is barred by the constitution from standing in the next presidential election, originally scheduled for next month.

Kabila's opponents say he is intentionally delaying the elections to cling to power and have vowed protests to force him from office this year. The government, however, says the delay is due to budgetary and logistical obstacles.