DR Congo's 'invisible' massacre

Sources have claimed that the violence was a carefully-planned massacre of the Banunu.

11 February 2019 | Africa

It was a bloodbath that happened out of sight of the rest of the world and was largely unnoticed even at home, occurring in the runup to fiercely-disputed elections.

Days passed before details began to trickle out about what had happened on December 16 and 17 in Yumbi, a remote territory in southwest DR Congo.

It was a whole month before a preliminary UN investigation said “credible sources” had found nearly 900 people were killed - a figure later scaled back to 535 after bodies had been identified.

Some 16 000 refugees fled across the Congo River into the neighbouring Republic of Congo.

The authorities have characterised the violence as a spontaneous act - long-simmering tensions between the Batende and Banunu communities that suddenly flared over the burial of a Banunu tribal chief. But when AFP visited the scene last week, sources said the violence was a carefully-planned massacre of the Banunu.

The attack was carried out using military-style tactics and some assailants were dressed in army uniforms, they said.

Some implicated members of the armed forces and the local authorities in the massacre.

Colonel Olivier Gasita, sent to the region on December 20 from Kinshasa, around 400 kilometres to the south, said: “The assailants were well-organised. Clearly there was an organisation commanding them.”

“Between 3 000 and 4 000 men attacked the area,” said Gasita, who has become Yumbi's acting territorial administrator.

There was a “training camp” in the Yumbi region, he said, without giving its location.

Men in military uniform and armed with assault rifles gunned down Banunu people, said many survivors who had fled across the river to Makotimpoko in the Republic of Congo. The colonel spoke of “a three-column attack - that's a military tactic. That shows that military men, either deserters or demobilised men, were involved.”

“The soldiers were right in the front line,” said Bosukisa Montole, a refugee cradling his son, who had a bullet wound in the neck.

Another soldier, who wished to remain anonymous, told AFP “around 30 troops” had directly participated in the violence.

He said that his unit, deployed in one of the four targeted villages, Bongende, received warning messages from members of the Batende just before the onslaught began.

“They called us to say that they were going to fight the Banunu,” the soldier told AFP, asking not to be named.

“They told me that if the Banunu brought back the body of their tribal chief, that would be the signal to start fighting.”

At least 339 people perished in Bongende village on December 17, according to investigators.

The soldier said that three days before the assault, he notified the Yumbi authorities that suspicious men were gathering at the home of a school headmaster in Ngamabila, situated near Bongende. But his concerns were not addressed, he said.

“Attackers went to the home of the primary school headmaster to camouflage themselves,” said Richard Nkumu, a teacher from Bongende who took refuge in Makotimpoko.

At least four Banunu people who had spouses or friends and relatives among the Batende were given several days warning ahead of the attack, survivors told AFP.

“A Batende friend came to say that I should flee with my family because soldiers were going to attack,” said Raoul, who took a pseudonym and is today a refugee.

After the bloodshed, the government replaced several territorial officials, including the police and intelligence chiefs, army staff and administrative personnel.

The local chief of the National Intelligence Agency (ANR), Paul Mutumbula, was arrested in Yumbi. He is now being investigated by prosecutors in a military probe launched by Kinshasa. Yumbi's police chief, Major Dominique Matshindi, has gone on the run.

The territorial administrator, Paul Mbo Nsami, was killed soon after the attack on Yumbi in murky circumstances while he hid in the local premises of the electoral commission, which had been wrecked.

The massacre took place just four days before elections that brought the curtain down on President Joseph Kabila's 18-year reign.

He was replaced by Felix Tshisekedi, head of Democratic Republic of Congo's veteran opposition party, the UDPS. Polling in Yumbi was postponed because of the violence - a measure that was also implemented in parts of the east where militia groups have killed hundreds of people in the last five years.


Similar News


SA sets eyes on Zimbabwe

1 month - 11 August 2020 | Africa

JEMIMA BEUKES WINDHOEK African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Ace Magashule has condemned the state-sanctioned brutality and rights violations in neighbouring Zimbabwe, saying...

Comet Neowise visible just after sunset

2 months ago - 30 July 2020 | Africa

ELVIRA HATTINGH WINDHOEKComet Neowise (C/2020 F3) is now visible in the southern hemisphere just after sunset.The Astronomy Society of Southern Africa said it has received...

Namibia stagnates on several SDGs

2 months ago - 29 July 2020 | Africa

ELLANIE SMIT WINDHOEK Namibia has been ranked 119th among 166 countries in achieving the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). This...

Africa should become the conservation continent

2 months ago - 27 July 2020 | Africa

ELLANIE SMIT WINDHOEK Protecting 30% of the earth's surface by 2030 could result in greater economic opportunities for emerging economies...

Response plan to improve health access, protect economies

4 months ago - 06 May 2020 | Africa

The African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) has launched a COVID-19 Response Plan of Action to assist African countries to improve access to sustainable and resilient...

Namibian companies consider AfCFTA boon

10 months ago - 19 November 2019 | Africa

CATHERINE SASMANNamibia recently signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) that could potentially unlock the massive African market of 1.2 billion people as the...

Small burial for Mugabe

1 year - 30 September 2019 | Africa

The body of Zimbabwe's former president Robert Mugabe was buried on Saturday in his rural village of Kutama, an AFP reporter at the scene said.The...

Another dos Santos falls

1 year - 30 September 2019 | Africa

One year ago, the dos Santos family handed the Angolan presidency over to Joao Lourenco. The new president promised to tackle corruption which crippled the...

South Africans are not xenophobic

1 year - 17 September 2019 | Africa

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa has apologised for the violent attacks by South Africans against nationals of other African countries, saying South Africans are not...

Mugabe: Hero or zero?

1 year - 16 September 2019 | Africa

Some believe the late Robert Mugabe was thrown into the dustbin of history when he was deposed as president of Zimbabwe in 2017, yet many...

Latest News

Uutoni has final say on...

7 hours ago | Government

KENYA KAMBOWERUNDUUrban and rural development minister Erastus Uutoni will have the last say as to whether 83.1738 hectares of land at Divundu in the Kavango...

Govt spends N$2.3bn to buy...

7 hours ago | Agriculture

ELLANIE SMITWINDHOEKThe government has spent N$2.3 billion on the acquisition of 558 farms measuring 3.4 million hectares to resettle landless Namibians to date.The government started...

Youth must stand up and...

7 hours ago | Opinion

Young Namibians have historically been the torchbearers of every revolution we have come to experience.In fact, that’s the story everywhere in Africa. Nelson Mandela, Yoweri...

Snared Etosha elephant calf rescued

7 hours ago | Environment

FRANCOISE STEYNBERGWINDHOEKAn elephant calf that was spotted near Namutoni in the Etosha National Park with a wire snare cutting deep into the flesh of its...

Six arrested for wildlife crimes

7 hours ago | Crime

ELLANIE SMITWINDHOEKSix suspects have been arrested in connection with wildlife crimes and two new cases were registered last week.Three of the suspects were arrested for...

Swapo processes under fire

7 hours ago | Politics

OTIS FINCKWALVIS BAYAccording to an aggrieved group, Swapo leaders assigned to the Erongo Region baffled members in the districts by pushing through disputed candidate nominations...

A shared future for the...

7 hours ago | Opinion

ZHANG YIMINGToday marks the 71st anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China as well as the Chinese traditional Mid-Autumn Festival (Moon Festival)....

Matjila, Fillemon crowned gaming kings

7 hours ago | Sports

Jesse Jackson Kauraisa WINDHOEK Namibian gamers Rashaad Matjila and Matias Fillemon have been selected as the country's e-sports national team players...

BA's power tussles continue

7 hours ago | Sports

Limba Mupetami WINDHOEK Infighting within Black Africa's (BA) ranks continues, with the interim committee and supporters of the community club clashing on whether...

Load More