Profound shock has swept through the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) following the tragic events of August 30th in Goma, where around fifty people lost their lives. Congolese police and subsequently the army intervened against members of a religious group who had planned to demonstrate against UN forces and regional actors in the Eastern part of the country. The gathering had been prohibited by the authorities. According to the latest report from civil society, 48 civilians and one police officer were killed, while the government reports 43 casualties.
The United Nations mission (MONUSCO), which the protesters demanded to leave, started on the morning of September 1st. Bintou Keita, the UN representative, “deeply regrets that the prohibited demonstration led to the deaths of civilians, police officers, and members of the Congolese armed forces, as well as several injuries […]. MONUSCO remains concerned about the threats of violence made before the demonstration and underscores the importance of peacefully resolving disputes and conflicts through inclusive dialogue.”
Indignant responses have emerged from civil society and human rights advocates. Lucha has described it as a “massacre” and condemned an assault carried out by Congolese military personnel. They are calling for the suspension of the military governor of North Kivu and the mayor of Goma. The international organization Human Rights Watch regards it as an “extremely brutal and unlawful way to enforce a ban.” They demand that “the families of the victims be allowed to see the bodies and that military officials be brought to justice.”
Political reactions have also surfaced, especially from the opposition. Moïse Katumbi, the President of Ensemble for the Republic, condemns what he terms a “crime against humanity” and adds, “The government’s inability to put an end to insecurity is its greatest failure.” He calls for an investigation, as does Martin Fayulu, the President of the Ecide, who describes it as the “massacre of members of a group rebelling against insecurity” and cites yet another violation of human rights.
Meanwhile, the government emphasizes the premeditated violence on the part of the protesters while deploring the response of the Congolese armed forces. “We await the results of the investigations so that no act goes unpunished,” said government spokesperson Patrick Muyaya, who also announced that a government delegation would soon be arriving in Goma.