AUnited Nations investigation into the violence that engulfed two communities in western Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, resulting in the killing of 535 people between December 16 and 18, 2018, says they could possibly amount to crimes against humanity of murder, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as persecution.
The UN in January 2019 said at least 890 people might have died in the clashes. According to the report published on March 12, 2019, members of the Batende community attacked Banunu villages near Yumbi “with extreme violence and speed, allowing victims little time to escape,” the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC said. Mai-Ndombe provincial authorities “appear to have failed to protect the population,” investigators noted. Trou ble started after the Banunus tried to bury a traditional chief on Batende land.
The ensuing unprecedented violence was “planned and executed with the support of customary chiefs,” the investigation said, warning that further fighting could flare up at any time. The UN team only managed to reach three out of the four villages at the heart of the attack. People were burnt in their homes and other bodies thrown into Congo River as victims fled across River Congo to Congo Brazzaville, resulting in the displacement of 16,000 villagers. The Washington Post cited Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland as saying that majority Batende tribes people, armed with hunting rifles, machetes, bows and arrows and gasoline, killed at least 535 people during attacks on minority Banunus.
Close to 1,000 buildings, mostly homes, 14 churches, 17 schools and several health cen tres, were destroyed. Security forces detained 18 people in December 2018 and January 2019, but later released three. The authorities suspended further arrests after the Batendes demanded the release of all detainees. “It is crucial to ensure that perpetrators of these terrible crimes are punished,” Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations human rights chief, said. She called on DRC authorities to set up a truth and reconciliation programme to prevent violence from spreading.