Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) - 34 Burundian refugees were killed by security forces on September 16 in the refugee camp near the village of Kamanyola in the Plain of Ruzizi, South Kivu, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to information sent from sources of the local Church to Agenzia Fides, the tragedy was triggered by the arrest of four Burundians on the night of September 13, who were accused of being armed with cudgels and patrolling the fenced area of their camp, without the permission of the local authorities. The four were initially detained by the Immigration Department in Kamanyola and were then handed over to the local security service headquarters, the National Intelligence Agency (ANR).
The refugees explained that they were carrying out a night patrol because they had been informed of a probable assault on their camp by members of the Burundian pro-government militia, Imbonerakure.
On the evening of 15 September, Burundian refugees organized a mass demonstration to release the four inmates in front of the ANR headquarters. In the early hours of the 16th, the situation degenerated when the security forces opened fire on the crowd, killing 34 Burundians and injuring about a hundred. Authorities confirm one soldier died and some security agents were injured, indicating that there were armed people among the refugees. According to a note sent to Fides, "it is difficult to confirm that refugees have weapons, because security agents would never have captured armed Burundi refugees. Rather, it should be noted that the population alludes to Burundians (armed) who operate in the Plain of Ruzizi, who come directly from Burundi and therefore are not refugees from Kamanyola".
Fides sources point out, however, that there is mistrust among the population towards Burundi refugees, while local authorities have not undertaken any efforts to integrate them in the local society.
More than 410,000 Burundians were forced to seek shelter in the DRC and Tanzania (see Fides 26/5/2017) because of the violence triggered by the crisis that broke out in 2015 following the third mandate of President Pierre Nkurunziza, in violation of the Constitution and Arusha Peace Agreements. Since then, Burundi has been living in a state of permanent tension between the violence committed by the pro-government militia and those of some guerrilla groups who go against the president. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 20/9/2017)