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Congo: National Day of Mourning After the Death of 31 Youths

People walk by the Notre-Dame-du-Rosaire church in the Bacongo borough of Brazzaville on October 26, 2023.   -  
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Republic of the Congo

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

Flags are at half-mast in the capital, in front of public offices, and schools, bars and other entertainment venues are also observing the national mourning. However, road traffic in the city was normal.

On Tuesday evening, the Congolese government spokesperson, Thierry Moungalla, announced that 31 people had died, and 145 others were injured in the stampede that occurred on Monday night at the Michel d'Ornano stadium in Brazzaville.

According to security personnel at the site, the young recruitment candidates numbered in the thousands. Some forced the gate, while others jumped over a wall.

Recruitment operations within the Congolese army had commenced on November 14, and "our youth had massively responded to the call of duty, wanting to serve under the flag," emphasized Mr. Moungalla, who is also the Minister of Communication.

The government had "declared a national day of mourning this Wednesday with the flag at half-mast, closure of bars, dance clubs, beverage outlets, and festive venues," he detailed.

In addition to the judicial investigation opened by the public prosecutor, a "mixed administrative investigation - police-Congolese armed forces" has been initiated. It will determine the causes of the tragedy and present its findings in the coming days, Mr. Moungalla further stated.

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

On Tuesday, the organization "Standing for Congo" (DPC) called on the government to implement a "plan to combat mass youth unemployment."

As a small country in Central Africa, Congo has a population of 5.7 million, with 47% aged under 18, according to the World Bank's 2022 report.

In this oil-rich country led by Denis Sassou Nguesso, 79 years old, with 39 years in office, "42% of the youth are unemployed," DPC noted, citing a World Bank report."

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