Nearly 50 protesters killed in DR Congo after soldiers crackdown on anti-UN protest
By Jennifer S. Kuwanta
At least 48 people have been killed in a crackdown on an anti-UN protest in eastern DR Congo, according to sources and official documentation released on Thursday, August 31.
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s east has been ravaged by militia violence for three decades, a legacy of regional wars that flared in the 1990s and 2000s.
The UN peacekeeping mission in the region is one of the largest and costliest in the world, with an annual budget of about $1 billion.
On Wednesday, Congolese soldiers stopped a religious sect from holding a demonstration against United Nations peacekeepers in the city of Goma.
Some 10 people were initially reported killed after the troops entered a radio station and a place of worship, according to local sources. A policeman was also lynched in the violence.
But an internal army document released Thursday, and verified by security officials, gave a toll of 48 people killed in the incident — in addition to the slain policeman — and 75 people wounded.
The document also said soldiers seized a number of bladed weapons and arrested 168 people, including the leader of the Christian-animist sect, which is named “Natural Judaic and Messianic Faith towards the Nations”.
Congolese pro-democracy activist group LUCHA also stated on Thursday that the number of people killed was “close to 50”.
In a statement late on Thursday, the government put the toll at “43 dead, with 56 injured and 158 people apprehended, including the sect leader”.
It said it supported “the investigation opened by the military auditor… so that those responsible can be brought to justice”.
Two unverified video clips circulating on social media on Thursday appeared to show Congolese soldiers throwing lifeless bodies — some drenched in blood — into the back of a military vehicle.
“Congolese security forces shot and killed dozens of protesters, and wounded scores more,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement.