DR Congo sentences 30 to death over Ramadan clashes

People inspect a burned police car after clashes outside Martyrs Stadium in Kinshasa on May 13, 2021. © Hereward Holland, Reuters

Thirty people have been sentenced to death in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for their role in the violence against the police that marked the end of Ramadan in the capital Kinshasa on Thursday, judicial sources said.

The verdict was pronounced in the early hours of Saturday morning after a hastily conducted trial that began on Friday in Kinshasa.

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. They were charged with criminal association, rebellion, assault and battery, as well as attempted murder.

Five people were acquitted.

Congo imposed a moratorium on executions in 2003.

On Thursday, violent clashes broke out between Muslim worshippers fighting for access to the Martyrs stadium, Kinshasa’s main sports complex, to hold Eid-Al Fitr prayers.

The protesters attacked the police who were present to supervise the ceremony, injuring dozens of them.

An initial official report stated that one policeman was killed, and images of the incident were widely circulated on social networks.

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

About 10 police vehicles were damaged including one that was completely incinerated.

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

A Muslim worshipper prays during a mass prayer to celebrate Eid al-Fitr on June 4, 2019 at the Stade des Martyrs in Kinshasa. – Muslims worldwide celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holidays, which mark the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)

The hearing was broadcast live on public television throughout the day and lasted until early Saturday morning.

The Islamic community of the DRC has been experiencing a succession crisis for several years between the two rival factions within the only association representing the faithful – the Islamic Community of Congo (COMICO).

Court is yet to rule on the legitimate leaders.

Estimated to be about 10% of the population, Congo’s Muslims are mainly located in the eastern regions of the country.

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.

(AFP)

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