At least 48 civilians shot dead by armed forces on August 30 in the capital of North Kivu.
Less than four months before the presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the east of the country has fallen into a new wave of violence. On Wednesday August 30, the Congolese armed forces intervened to “prevent a demonstration against the UN”according to Lieutenant General Constant Ndima, military governor of the province of North Kivu, placed, like the neighboring province of Ituri, under a state of siege since May 2021.
The first report released a few hours after the military intervention reported 6 deaths including a police officer. But this figure did not hold up in the face of various video recordings posted on social networks by city residents.
In these images, we see soldiers wearing Republican Guard uniforms unceremoniously throwing at least ten lifeless bodies into the back of a military vehicle. Some corpses are dragged to the ground, covered in blood. “The number of victims of the carnage carried out by the army against unarmed civilians demanding the departure of MONUSCO from Goma is around fifty,” quickly declared Lucha, a pro-democracy movement born in Goma and very active in the DRC.
Opponents of the regime of President Félix Tshisekedi unanimously condemned this “blind repression”. Moïse Katumbi, announced presidential candidate, spoke of “a crime against humanity” sign “by soldiers against unarmed men”. Doctor Mukwege, 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner, who has still not clarified his position in view of the presidential election, spoke to him “of carnage”while Delly Sessanga, another presidential candidate, launched that “Goma is not a lawless zone where force can be exercised without control. (…). The state of siege in no way justifies our army turning its weapons against its citizens whom it is supposed to protect”.
The military governor of North Kivu tried to justify the action of his men by blaming the demonstrators who “killed a police officer and were going to invade the MONUSCO base. They were going to start hunting the whites. They were going to start attacking the NGOs and the EAC forces (…) The police could not contain the fire. This is how the army intervened, seeing that something could be hidden behind it”.
A version denied by several testimonies from injured people collected this weekend. “The soldiers arrived very early, before the march even began”, an injured person treated by the International Committee of the Red Cross for a gunshot wound to the shoulder told AFP on Friday.
He was then in the temple of the sect “Natural Judaic and Messianic Faith towards the Nations”, which mixes Christian and animist rites, from where the demonstrators planned to leave to march in Goma.
”We were not armed”, assures the 20-year-old young man, whose anonymity is preserved for his safety. “They killed us without a second thought”he adds, describing “bodies exploding, legs broken, and this without any justification.”
The violence of the repression which left at least 48 dead, nearly a hundred injured and several dozen arrests prompted the UN to call for an “exhaustive investigation”. Three days after the events, during the council of ministers, President Tshisekedi expressed his “conviction” in front of “this tragedy (…) which will not go unpunished”.
Many voices are being raised to demand an independent international investigation while insisting on the need for absolute transparency. “Not like in the case of the assassination of Chérubin Okende”, explains a provincial parliamentarian from North Kivu. Chérubin Okende, former minister, spokesperson for Moïse Katumbi’s Ensemble pour la République party was found murdered in his car on July 13 not far from the center of Kinshasa. An investigation is underway, Belgian and South African forensic experts assisted the team of Congolese investigators and an autopsy was carried out on August 4. A month later, the leaden weight still weighs on this file.
This massacre of August 30, two weeks after a call for the lifting of the state of siege in North Kivu and Ituri launched after a three-day seminar led in Kinshasa by national and provincial elected officials, traditional, religious and associations raises questions. Goma, capital of North Kivu, now hosts several hundred “mercenaries” in the service of the Congolese state, a MONUSCO HQ, the nerve centers of East African community troops and dozens of community militias. “An explosive millefeuille”, according to an African diplomat who insists on “the impossibility of managing this situation”. The Congolese state, at the origin of this influx of troops, appears overwhelmed and incapable of dealing with a situation which risks degenerating every day.