Sunday, September 19, 2021

30 sentenced to death over anti-police clashes in DR Congo

Thirty people were sentenced to death in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday for their role in anti-police violence marking the end of Ramadan in the capital Kinshasa.

A policeman was killed on Thursday as rival Muslim groups fought over the right to mark the end of Ramadan at a major sports stadium, officials said.

The government has also confirmed that one policewoman is in critical condition and 46 others were injured with eight in a serious state.

About ten police vehicles were damaged including one that was completely incinerated.

A total of 38 people who had been arrested appeared at Friday’s trial.

The trial was broadcast live on public television and lasted until the early hours of Saturday.

A lawyer for civil parties, Chief Tshipamba, told AFP 30 people were sentenced to death and a recording of the proceedings obtained by AFP confirmed the verdict.

DR Congo has not carried out death penalties since a moratorium was introduced in 2003. Since then, death sentences are commuted to life imprisonment.

Two rival factions have for years disputed the leadership of the DRC’s Comico Muslim federation.

While the case remains before the courts, the two sides remain at odds and occasionally come to blows.

Around 10 percent of the DRC’s population are Muslim, most concentrated in the country’s east.

But Kinshasa on the Congo river in the west of the vast central African country also traditionally sees mass celebrations for the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in public squares and on major roads.

Speaking with AFP reporters outside the stadium, dismayed worshipper Papy Okitankoyi Kimoto said it was “devastating to do a month of fasting only to have it end in guerilla street scenes like this”.

Widely circulated images of the violence and of the injured police officers have prompted authorities to call for religious leaders to be held accountable.

DR Congo’s minister of sports Serge Chembo Nkonde has sanctioned the managers of the stadium where the violence took place.

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