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DR Congo – Kasai Bloodshed

Investigators unearth more mass graves as concern grows over further escalation.

On April 19th the United Nations (UN) said it had found a further 17 mass graves raising the total number known to 40. Fifteen graves were found in Tshimbulu town and two in Tshienke

Earlier on March 22nd, UN investigators counted 10 mass graves connected with the conflict between security forces and militias, at a cost of at least 400 lives. Seven were found in Demba town, with three in Tshimbulu.

Further, the UN said on April 21st that more than one million people had been displaced in the region over the last eight months. This is alongside violence in North and South Kivu, which has led a further two million to be displaced.

Fighting erupted in Kasai after government forces last August killed tribal chief Jean Pierre Mpandi, aka Kamwina Nsapu, who had launched an uprising against the government of President Joseph Kabila.

Further, two UN researchers, American Michael Sharp and Swedish-Chilean dual national Zaida Catalan, were kidnapped on March 12th with four Congolese nationals. Their bodies were found in a grave 16 days later.

Chief military prosecutor, Major General Joseph Ponde, said two men had been arrested for allegedly killing the UN experts. The remaining suspect was being interrogated in Kananga, capital of Kasai.

The Kamwina Nsapu militia “is increasingly taking violent and hostile action against anyone it sees as being outsiders, interfering in the Kasai,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.


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Resentment of Kabila’s administration runs deep in the region, which had overwhelmingly supported opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi in the 2011 election. Before he was killed, Mpandi had called on his militia to fight anyone representing the government, posting an audio appeal online for the “liberation of Congo”.

On March 28th, 39 police were killed in an ambush by rebels in Kasai and buried in a mass grave around 75km north of Tshikapa. The police had been travelling in two army transport trucks, with substantial equipment, which was taken by the rebels.

Jordan Anderson, Africa analyst for IHS Markit, cited reports that all 39 had been beheaded.

Suspected militia fighters also reportedly decapitated two soldiers on the outskirts of the Kananga airport, and have managed to release scores of prisoners from jail in Luebo area. Some escapees are seen as highly dangerous and could contribute to worsening the situation in the already embattled region.

(© AFP 28, 30, 31/3, 4, 14, 21/4 2017; BBC Monitoring 3, 11/4; Radio Okapi 9, 11/4)

Find out more the Africa Research Bulletin:

DR CONGO: Concern over Rights Abuses
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 2, Pp. 21328B–21329A

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Bloody Christmas [Free to Read]
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 12, Pp. 21258A–21258C

DR CONGO: Targeted Attacks on Press
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 11, Pp. 21217B–21218A

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today. 

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