Protests in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo: a drunken soldier from an elite brigade caused a massacre in a small town.
The population of Sange mourns the laid out dead, July 31 Photo: Actualite Congo
The Congolese army’s "rapid reaction brigades" are intended as an elite force: in the fight against rebels and militias, these special troops, with their superior training and equipment, are supposed to create clear conditions.
A soldier of the 12th Rapid Reaction Brigade in the eastern Congolese town of Sange created a clear situation on Thursday evening, when on his way back to his barracks at around 10 p.m., after drinking a lot of alcohol, he had the idea of making a phone call to a passer-by.
When the latter refused, the soldier with his service weapon did what he had learned: he reacted quickly. In the end, six women and five men were dead, plus a two-year-old girl. Nine other people were injured, some seriously, and two have since died.
Sange is a small town in the mountains of the eastern Congolese province of South Kivu, on the main road between the provincial capital Bukavu and the town of Uvira on the border with Burundi.
Sange last achieved sad notoriety in 2010 when a tanker truck overturned during a risky overtaking maneuver – right in front of a bar where quarterfinal matches of the World Cup were being played. The tanker truck exploded, killing around 230 people. Now the outrage is at least as great as it was ten years ago.
The dead serve as a roadblock
Armed conflicts involving parts of the army are becoming increasingly bloody in South Kivu. Just two weeks ago, activists lamented a massacre of at least 200 people.
The 12. Rapid reaction brigade is supposed to create more security. However, its commander, General Dieudonne Muhima, has himself been involved in eastern Congo’s conflicts for many years, and where he is stationed, violence is on the rise.
On Friday, the angry population of Sange cordoned off the main road. To cordon it off, they used the dead bodies wrapped in cloths.
Demands on the government
In a memorandum to the provincial government, they demanded the withdrawal of the Sange-based 2nd Battalion of the 12th Rapid Reaction Brigade – also called the 122nd Battalion in reports – and the dissolution of the local "security committee," in which the army tells authorities what to do.
The provincial government said yes, but whether it can implement it remains to be seen. After all, Congo’s government, as well as President Felix Tshisekedi, has expressed outrage at the massacre.
After the state also covered the funeral costs for the 14 dead, residents in Sange lifted the roadblock.
And the killer soldier? He remains a fugitive along with his weapon.