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