Authorities in northeastern Congo announced the arrest of two senior military officers on Monday. These officers had played a role in suppressing protests last week, resulting in 43 fatalities and 56 individuals sustaining severe injuries.
Interior Minister Peter Kazadi announced that police had detained Commanders Mike Mikombe and Donat Bawili, who held leadership positions in Goma, the eastern city where the recent violence unfolded. Commander Mike Mikombe was in charge of the Republican Guard unit, and Commander Donat Bawili led the Congolese armed forces regiment.
Last Wednesday, the country’s defense and security forces resorted to the use of deadly force to suppress planned anti-U.N. protests in Goma. To ascertain responsibility for these events, a government delegation arrived in Goma on Monday to conduct hearings and other proceedings, as indicated by the interior minister.
Minister Kazadi emphasized the commitment to transparency, stating, “We have no intention of concealing anything. We will uncover the complete truth.” Authorities issued a call to the families of the victims in Goma, urging them to provide information for the ongoing inquiry.
On August 23, Goma’s mayor had prohibited a protest organized by a group known as the Natural Judaic and Messianic Faith Towards the Nations, commonly referred to as Wazalendo. This group’s supporters had planned to stage a demonstration against the regional East African Community organization and the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo.
The United Nations mission, known by its French acronym MONUSCO, had faced growing pressure to withdraw from Congo after more than two decades of involvement in the conflict-ridden country. On Thursday, Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group, reported that armed forces had opened fire on Wazalendo demonstrators in the streets before the protests could commence, triggering what appeared to be a significant loss of life in the city. National authorities confirmed the deaths of 43 civilians and 56 individuals with severe injuries.
The United Nations human rights office reported that over 220 people had been arrested in connection with the planned protests and the subsequent crackdown.
Presidential spokesperson Tina Salama, communicating on the social media platform X (formerly Twitter), conveyed that President Felix Tshisekedi, expressing his anger and dismay over the tragic events in Goma, had called upon the judiciary to investigate the tragedy and determine accountability.
In response to the tragic deaths, young protesters in Goma barricaded roads on Monday morning to voice their outrage. The city remained at a standstill into the afternoon until the police successfully dispersed the protesters without any major incidents and reopened the roads.