Local officials reported that clashes in Congo between armed forces and members of a religious sect protesting the presence of Western organizations in the country have led to the deaths of dozens of individuals.
Congo’s army violently broke up a protest in the city of Goma. Demonstrators were venting their anger against the United Nations peacekeeping operation and other foreign organizations after footage of an attack on a policeman circulated on social media.
On Thursday, protesters accused the army of firing indiscriminately at civilians. The army said 160 people were arrested amid the unrest.
The head of the International Red Cross branch in Goma, Anne-Sylvie Linder, said her clinic had received many patients with serious stab and gunshot wounds after the protest.
“Some were dead when they arrived,” she said.
The UN peacekeeping mission in eastern Congo, MONUSCO, expressed its condolences in a statement and said it remained concerned by the threats of violence.
It also said it “encourages the Congolese authorities to conduct a prompt and independent investigation and calls them to treat those detained humanely and to respect their rights.”
Mayor banned protest
A United Nations source told Reuters news agency there were “credible” allegations of more than 50 fatalities after soldiers blocked protesters who had gathered at a church before the demo got underway.
Goma Mayor Faustin Napenda Kapend banned the protest on August 23 shortly after it was announced.
Security and defense forces had gathered at major intersections when violence broke out in the early hours of Wednesday morning.