Refugees killed in Congo

36 Bu­run­di­ans die in clashes with se­cu­rity; U.N. calls for in­quiry

The Dallas Morning News - - World - Eloge Willy Kaneza, The Associated Press

BUJUMBURA, Bu­rundi — At least 36 Bu­run­dian refugees were killed in clashes with Con­golese se­cu­rity forces, who al­legedly fired in­dis­crim­i­nately at pro­test­ers, the U.N. en­voy to Congo said Satur­day.

The en­voy, Ma­man Sidikou, said he was “deeply shocked” at the vi­o­lence. An­other 117 peo­ple were wounded, and one Con­golese of­fi­cer was killed, he said in a state­ment. Thirty-nine gravely wounded Bu­run­dian refugees were evac­u­ated by he­li­copter to the city of Bukavu, ac­cord­ing to the U.N. peace­keep­ing mis­sion in Congo.

The clashes erupted Fri­day in Ka­many­ola, in Congo’s South Kivu prov­ince, when Bu­run­dian refugees and asy­lum-seek­ers protested the ex­pul­sion of four Bu­run­di­ans from Congo, Sidikou said, cit­ing “cred­i­ble re­ports” re­ceived by the peace­keep­ing mis­sion. The death of the Con­golese army of­fi­cer led to “the es­ca­la­tion of vi­o­lence.”

The U.N. en­voy called for a swift in­ves­ti­ga­tion and urged Congo’s se­cu­rity forces to use force as a last re­sort.

Congo’s gov­ern­ment is open­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion to es­tab­lish the facts and the true iden­tity of the “sup­posed refugees,” spokesman Lam­bert Mende said.

“We do not yet un­der­stand how the peo­ple who are be­ing called refugees were also shoot­ing at Con­golese sol­diers,” Mende said. “No per­son who is a ben­e­fi­ciary of this [refugee] sta­tus is sup­posed to have an as­sault ri­fle.”

Roughly 44,000 refugees from Bu­rundi are in Congo. Many fled po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence at home in 2015, when Pres­i­dent Pierre Nku­run­z­iza suc­cess­fully pur­sued a dis­puted third term amid deadly protests.

Bu­rundi’s for­eign min­is­ter, Alain Aimé Nyamitwe, on Twit­ter asked Congo and U.N. of­fi­cials for an ex­pla­na­tion of the shoot­ings.

Res­i­dents said the killings oc­curred af­ter some Bu­run­dian refugees went to the bureau of in­tel­li­gence in Ka­many­ola to in­quire about four de­ported refugees. Con­golese sol­diers re­sponded with gun­fire when some refugees hurled stones, refugee Aline Nduwaru­gira said.

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