GOMA, DRC —
The Red Cross in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is denying that it handed over some of the bodies buried in a mass grave near Kinshasa last month. The organization told VOA it did not hand over any of those bodies and was not involved in the burial.
The Red Cross Society in the DRC was reacting to a statement by the interim governor of Kinshasa, Robert Luzolamu Mavema, implicating the organization in the burial.
Mavema told media outlets on Tuesday that 421 bodies were buried March 19 in a grave near a cemetery at Maluku, about 100 kilometers from Kinshasa. He said these included 300 corpses of stillborn children and fetuses, 57 of abandoned and destitute persons, and 64 people who were unidentified, adding that an unknown number of these bodies had been handed over by the Red Cross.
Red Cross president Dominique Lutula Friday said, “We don’t know about this story. The Red Cross was not informed of this, or associated with this burial in any way.”
He added that his organization has investigated whether any of its members were involved and found no evidence that they were.
On Friday morning, Lutula also told VOA he was going to a meeting at the U.S. embassy.
Lutula’s statement follows a week in which human rights activists have been calling for the corpses at Maluku to be exhumed to check if any are of anti-government protesters killed in January. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 42 people died in protests in Kinshasa between January 19 and 22, while others involved in the demonstrations have disappeared.
Other rights organizations assert that hundreds of people disappeared after the protests.
On Wednesday, the Belgian government called for a “credible, independent investigation” and for the burial site to be protected to prevent any loss of evidence as to the identity of the bodies.
Government officials have denied any link between the mass grave and the protests and announced the launch of a judicial inquiry. A week ago, Interior Minister Evariste Boshab said the bodies could be exhumed if that was judged necessary, but on Monday government spokesman Lambert Mende said there would be no exhumation.
On Thursday, Mende told media the 421 bodies had been brought to the central morgue in Kinshasa by various medical organizations in the capital and that the burial had been carried out by the municipal authorities.