Kinshasa — AT least 535 civilians have been killed in the recent clashes between rival ethnic groups in in western Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The confirmation by the United Nations Organization Stabilisation Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) comes after it identified a total of 59 mass graves in some affected towns during inter-ethnic clashes featuring the Banunu and Batende communities in Mai-Ndombe Province. Some 111 villagers were wounded.
Fights started on December 16 over the burial of a customary chief of the Banunu community.
MONUSCO disclosed furthermore, 967 properties, including churches, schools and health centres were looted or destroyed.
An estimated 16 000 people reportedly fled their homes, including 7 000 who crossed to the neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville.
The outbreak of inter-ethnic violence occurred weeks ahead of crucial presidential elections, which had been delayed for two years.
Voting in affected areas was postponed while the Electoral Commission building was among facilities destroyed.
MONUSCO has called for investigations.
"The mission is ready to support the Congolese authorities to bring justice to the victims and promote reconciliation between the two communities,"
MONUSCO reports that the security situation is currently calm, with national security forces having been deployed to affected areas.