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Congo: national mourning after 31 deaths in a stampede

Congo: national mourning after 31 deaths in a stampede
A man crosses a deserted street in Poto-Poto, 3rd arrondissement of Brazzaville,   -  
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ALEXIS HUGUET/AFP or licensors

Republic of the Congo

A day of national mourning decreed by the Congolese authorities is observed Wednesday in the Republic of Congo, in memory of 31 young people who died in a stampede Monday evening in Brazzaville during an army recruitment operation.

The flags are at half mast in the capital, in front of public administrations and schools, noted an AFP correspondent.

Bars and other entertainment venues also observe national mourning. In the city, however, road traffic was normal.

On Tuesday evening, Congolese government spokesperson Thierry Moungalla announced that 31 people had died and 145 others had been injured in the stampede that occurred overnight from Monday to Tuesday in the Michel d'Ornano stadium in Brazzaville.

According to agents responsible for securing the site, there were several thousand young candidates for recruitment. Some forced the gate, others jumped over a wall.

Recruitment operations within the Congolese army were launched on November 14, and "our young people massively responded to the call of duty by wanting to serve under the flag", recalled Mr. Moungalla who is also Minister of Communication.

The government "declared a day of national mourning this Wednesday with half-masting of the flag, closure of bars, dance halls, drinking establishments, and festive places", he detailed.

In addition to the judicial investigation opened by the public prosecutor, a "mixed administrative investigation - police-Congolese armed forces - has been opened. It will have to determine the causes of the tragedy and render its conclusions in the next few days", indicated elsewhere Mr. Moungalla.

Congolese human rights organizations and opposition political representatives have pointed the finger at the government's responsibility in this tragedy.

On Tuesday, the organization “Debout pour le Congo” (DPC) called on the government to put in place a “plan to combat mass youth unemployment”.

A small country in Central Africa, Congo has 5.7 million inhabitants, 47% of whom are under the age of 18, according to the 2022 World Bank report.

In this oil-rich country led by Denis Sassou Nguesso, 79 years old, 39 of whom have been head of state, "42% of young people are unemployed", recalls DPC, citing a World Bank report.

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