The United Nations says security forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) used lethal force against protesters during anti-government demonstrations that took place in September.
A preliminary report from an investigation by a United Nations Joint Human Rights Office of MONUSCO said, ‘‘at least 53 people were killed over two days, 143 injured and more than 299 unlawfully arrested.’‘ The 53 figure is higher than the government’s official statistic of 32.
The report further stated that ‘‘Of the 53 people documented killed, including seven women and two children, at least 48 were killed by State agents.’‘
The complicit state agents included the Police Nationale Congolaise (PNC) and soldiers of the Garde Républicaine(GR)and the Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC).
Perpetrators were not identified in the killing of four police officers and one woman. The vast majority of the victims – 38 of them – were shot dead.
The UN said most victims were shot in the head, chest and back, including a five-year-old girl who was shot in the back. Others died after being burned, stabbed, beaten or attacked with machetes.
Of the 143 documented as injured, 75 were victims of the excessive use of force by State agents while 68 were injured by unknown perpetrators.
Another UN body, (UNJHRO) said the actual number could be much higher, given that investigators faced several restrictions during their work citing denials of access to places of detention and sources of information.
The deadly anti-government protests started on 19 September and extended into the next day. Opposition groups hit the streets to demand that elections be organized in December when the tenure of the incumbent Joseph Kabila expires.
Reports on the day pointed to the fact that authorities had distributed machetes and money to about 100 young men, with a view to disturbing the demonstration. The opposition has vowed to continue the protests.
The report also refers to violence and looting by demonstrators. It says that protesters beat four police officers to death, with one of the bodies set on fire.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for the DRC Maman Sidikou urged Congolese authorities to conduct prompt, thorough, independent, credible and impartial investigations into the very serious human rights violations documented in the report.