DRC authorities prepare new mass burial

2015-04-13 20:50


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Kinshasa - Congolese authorities announced on Monday they would soon carry out a new collective burial in the capital Kinshasa, amid international concern over the earlier discovery of a mass grave.

Such group burials are carried out "regularly" in Kinshasa, Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba said, explaining that bodies left unclaimed in the capital's central morgue, which numbered 168 on Saturday, would be buried some time in the next two weeks.

His comments came just days after the European Union and United Nations called for an urgent probe into a mass grave discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital, which local authorities say contained hundreds of dead babies and foetuses.

At least 421 bodies were buried in the grave in Maluku district in March.

Thambwe, addressing several foreign ambassadors and Congolese officials, said he wouldn't talk of "mass graves" as the term "assumes execution, massacre, killing fields. I use the term common burial."

He insisted that bodies were buried at the Maluku site "in accordance with the rules which date from the (Belgian) colonial era" and he invited the ambassadors to visit the Kinshasa morgue later in the day.

Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo told AFP there had "perhaps been administrative errors in the burial process."

"But he added that "there is nothing to fear because the burial of people was justified.... The central morgue asked for the required authorisation in order to proceed with the burials and that's what happened," he added.

Some 600 people die each day in Kinshasa, according to the authorities.

"When we've gone two or three months without a burial you can imagine the number of bodies which need it," said Matata.

Government opponents

Kinshasa's interim governor Luzolanu Mavema has said that of the 421 people buried on March 19 in the capital's Maluku district, 300 were stillborn babies and foetuses "abandoned in streams, rivers and even hospitals".

There were also 23 abandoned bodies, those of 34 drifters and 64 unidentified corpses, he added.

The governor said his focus was to deny rumours that the common grave could hold the bodies of government opponents who were killed during protests and mass arrests in January.

The January protesters had denounced moves they claimed were designed to delay presidential elections and allow President Joseph Kabila to remain in power in defiance of the constitution. Up to 42 people died during the violent protests.

The EU office in the Democratic Republic of Congo called for an "urgent, transparent and credible" probe and offered to provide support "with all means at our disposal".

The United Nations Human Rights Office in Geneva also pushed for a probe to be completed in a "transparent, credible and independent manner."

Former colonial ruler Belgium and rights groups including Human Rights Watch have backed up the call for an independent enquiry.

Read more on:    drc  |  central africa

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