DRC: Victims of Bas-Congo violence in urgent need of medical care

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A medical charity has expressed concerns that people wounded during clashes between the police and supporters of a politico-religious sect in the Bas-Congo province in southwest Democratic Republic of Congo are not receiving any medical help.

"This is an emergency situation," said Philippe Havet, Médicins San Frontières (MSF) Coordinator in Bas-Congo, in a 21 March report. "There are wounded - by bullet or bladed weapons – requiring emergency medical treatment. For MSF, all wounded should be treated, whatever their political or religious affiliations.”

He said MSF's mobile medical teams had seen empty villages with razed homes and that some of the wounded were forced to flee health centres.

Scores of people have been killed since the 28 February clashes between police and followers of Bundu Dia Kongo, which is contesting state authority.

MSF-Belgium has deployed two teams in the areas of Kibunzi and Tshela, north of Matadi, the main town in Bas-Congo, where many supporters of Bundu Dia Kongo are found.

MSF said some of the victims of violence were hit by stray bullets when they fled.

The agency's report said its mobile teams had counted 30 wounded in the 15 health facilities visited over two days. The teams distributed medical supplies to the health centres. Three patients requiring amputation had to be referred to the hospital in Matadi.

"It's difficult to give an overall figure for the number of victims because a lot of them are still out of reach,” Havet said. "Most of the wounded are members of the Bundu Dia Kongo group, who don't go to health facilities through fear of being found by the forces of law and order. Others have nothing to do with the clashes and have fled the violence to hide in the bush. Yet some of them are seriously wounded and their health must be in really poor shape. They need urgent treatment."

People were reluctant to seek treatment in the hospital in Matadi because of the presence of police guarding injured prisoners, Havet said.

President Joseph Kabila and other senior government officials travelled to Matadi on 20 March to review the situation in Bas-Congo with local authorities and NGOs.

"The province is calm now. The President will discuss issues relating to this situation with provincial officials," said the head of state's spokesman Kudura Kasongo.

The police have during the past two weeks intensified their operation against followers of Bundu Dia Kongo forcing many of them to go into hiding.

The sect counts among its objectives the emancipation of traditional African or Congolese culture and demands the restoration of the former Kingdom of the Congo.

Its followers have set up tribunals to try citizens they believe have broken the law, sentence them and beat them if found guilty. They have also set up a kind of police force called ‘Makesa’, who are armed with whips and consider themselves part of the national police. Occasionally they lower the national flag to hoist their own.

Source: IRIN