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Police action killed 55 in April in Congo: Human Rights Watch

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At least 55 people were killed in an excessive lethal force against a separatist religious movement police in the Democratic Republic of Congo in April 2020, Human Rights Watch said. The crackdown against the Bundu dia Kongo that occurred from April 13 to 24 in several towns in western Kongo Central province and in the country’s capital, Kinshasa, left many wounded as well.
 
BDK leader Zacharie Badiengila, commonly known as Ne Muanda had appealed to his supporters to “chase” out people who were not of Kongo ethnicity triggered the government response. The police action in the Kongo Central town of Songololo on April 22 resulted in 15 deaths and the raid on April 24 on Nsemi’s Kinshasa residence killed at least 33 people.
 
Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch said “Congolese authorities had a responsibility to respond to the BDK movement’s messages that incite ethnic hatred. However, the government response violated international standards on the use of force, causing a bloodbath.”
 
Nsemi, a former member of parliament and self-proclaimed “president of the Federal Republic of Kongo Central,” published a new installment of his regular newsletter called “Kongo Dieto,” or “Our Kongo” in Kikongo, the language spoken by the Bakongo people, the main ethnic group in Kongo Central in April. The four-page document asked his supporters to “stand up and chase every Muluba, every Mungala, and every Muswahili [people from other ethnic groups]” out of the Kongo Central province and to be “ruthless” against them.
 
Subsequently, hundreds of BDK members erected roadblocks in the towns of Boma, Kisantu, Sona-Bata, Lemba, and Songololo, chanting anti-ethnic slogans and threatening “foreign ethnic groups.” Even long sticks and palm nuts were carried by some, while a few were armed with locally made rifles. So police forces fired live ammunition to disperse the small crowds, in which at least six BDK members and one bystander were killed in the towns of Kisantu, Sona-Bata, and Boma. A BDK member allegedly fatally shot a police officer in Kisantu on April 13.
 

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