Simmering political tensions in the Democratic Republic of Congo were on display Tuesday as the country’s largest opposition party buried six people who were killed when the party's headquarters was attacked amid violent protests in September.
At the funeral service, hundreds of mourners made no secret of who they hold responsible for their loss. They chanted that President Joseph Kabila is killing people in Congo and must resign immediately.
The day before, the six young men’s bodies had been returned to the place where they died, the headquarters of their political party, the UDPS, the country’s largest opposition party. Its compound in Kinshasa was set on fire in the early hours of September 20.
The service took place in front of the burnt out building.
According to the United Nations, more than 50 people were killed during the unrest that erupted during an opposition march held on September 19.
Martin Fayulu, a prominent politician with the Rassemblement, an opposition coalition in which the UDPS plays a leading role, told VOA the six opposition members were killed by Mr. Kabila’s mob of soldiers as a reprisal for the demonstration. The attack demonstrates Kabila’s barbarism, Fayulu said, a barbarism for everyone to see.
Fayulu said the best way to honor these six men’s memories is to secure democracy. He said the opposition must accomplish the work these activists started and Kabila must step down December 19 when his term ends.
Term extended in controversial deal
A deal signed in Kinshasa last month, and boycotted by much of the opposition, including the Rassemblement, allows Kabila to stay in office until delayed elections are held in April 2018.
The government has rejected any link to the assault on the headquarters of the UDPS and has blamed unidentified criminal elements.
But in a report released on October 21, the U.N. Joint Human Rights Office said its investigation found that the individuals who broke into the UDPS headquarters were wearing the uniforms of the Republican Guard, which is the presidential protection force.
The report says that the assailants proceeded to attack those inside the compound with machetes, beat those who could not escape, and then set the building on fire and threw into the flames those they had detained.
According to the U.N.'s inquiry, the police then cordoned off the area, preventing the arrival of ambulances and the evacuation of the wounded.