Se­cu­rity forces kill refugees

U.N. rep says 36 Bu­run­di­ans died, 117 hurt in clashes with Congo of­fi­cers.

The Times-Tribune - - Nation & World - BY ELOGE WILLY KANEZA AND SALEH MWANAMILONGO

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

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. Thir­ty­nine gravely wounded Bu­run­dian refugees were evac­u­ated by he­li­copter to the city of Bukavu, the U.N. peace­keep­ing mis­sion in Congo said.

Fri­day’s clashes erupted in Ka­many­ola in Congo’s South Kivu prov­ince when Bu­run­dian refugees and asy­lum­seek­ers protested the ex­pul­sion of four of their coun­try­men 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 says it is open­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion to es­tab­lish the facts and 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 shel­ter­ing in Congo. Many fled po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence at home in 2015.

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