14 February 2017

Congo-Kinshasa: Clashes Leave Over 100 Dead

Photo: monusco
DR Congo soldiers (file photo).

Security forces are reported to have fired indiscriminately on militia members in central Congo. A recent surge in violence comes as fears the DRC may descend into civil war continue to grow.

Soldiers fired on members of a militia in central Democratic Republic of the Congo over the past couple of days, killing at least 101 people, including some 39 women, the UN said on Tuesday.

The fighting between the armed forces -- the FARDC -- and members of the Kamuina Nsapu militia occurred in and around the town of Tshimbulu in Kasai Central Province between 9 and 13 February.

"According to information from several sources, FARDC soldiers opened fire indiscriminately with machine guns when they saw the militia fighters, who were armed mainly with machetes and spears," said the UN spokesperson for human rights, Liz Throssell.

The UN is continuing to investigate ongoing clashes, the death toll from which "could be more, could be less," the UN's office in Geneva told DW.

The Kamuina Nsapu militia is named after a local chief who was killed by soldiers last August after he vowed to remove state security forces from Kasai Central for abusing the local population. The militia members say they are retaliating against the chief's death.

Hundreds of people have been killed and tens of thousands more displaced since August. The UN has documented atrocities being committed by both sides.

The UN said it condemned the militia for recruiting children and targeting symbols of the state, including government buildings, police stations and churches.

Central and eastern Congo has long been the scene of multiple conflicts between armed groups and security forces. The conflicts are fueled by disputes over land, ethnicity and mineral resources.

Violence has surged in recent weeks across the Congo since President Joseph Kabila refused to step down when his constitutional mandate expired in December, raising fears of a renewed civil war.

In a seperate incident on Tuesday, police in the capital Kinshasa raided the residence of the leader of a separatist religious sect and fired live ammunition and tear gas at his supporters.

The assault on Ne Muanda Nsemi, a self-proclaimed prophet and leader of the Bundu dia Kongo (BDK), left at least three people dead, police said. Twenty-two people were taken into police custody for questioning.

Police spokesman Colonel Pierre Mwanamputu said Nsemi and his supporters were involved in an "armed insurrectional movement" on Monday in Ngiri Ngiri, a district of Kinshasa.

Nsemi has called for his supporters to rise up against Kabila, including in a threatening video circulating on social media this week. Security forces have clashed with BDK members several times in the past few weeks in the sect's native Kongo Central province, but there is concern the violence could spread to the capital.

The BDK is mainly active in south-western Kongo Central province and seeks to revive a pre-colonial Congo kingdom.

cw/rt (dpa, Reuters)

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