Congo-Brazzaville: bombs dropped in residential areas including schools likely act of retaliation
30 bombs dropped on residential areas according to eyewitnesses
Three out of the four buildings of local primary school were hit
Bombings appear to be in retaliation of 4 April fighting
Air strikes on residential areas in Pool, the south eastern region of Congo-Brazzaville that have reportedly resulted in deaths, casualties and the destruction of churches, schools and medical facilities represent an unlawful use of lethal force by the country’s security forces, Amnesty International said today.
The bombings which took place on 5 April, appear to be in direct retaliation to the violence that broke out in Congo’s capital, Brazzaville the day before (4 April).
The “Ninjas” – an armed group led by Pastor Frederic Ntumi – were blamed by government for the violence which broke out on 4 April, and which came weeks after President Sassou Nguesso won the 20 March Presidential elections that opposition claims were marred by fraud and ballot irregularities.
Bombings in Pool
Eyewitnesses told Amnesty that on 5 April, helicopters dropped at least 30 bombs on residential areas in Pool, including three out of the four buildings of a school, in the town of Vindza. The target appeared to be a house which used to be the home of Pastor Frederic Ntumi, leader of the “Ninjas”.
Subsequently the Pool towns of Soumouna and Mayama have come under attack. An eyewitness told Amnesty that she saw at least 30 dead bodies between Soumouna and Ngula a village located some 8 kilometres away.
Amnesty International’s Central Africa researcher Ilaria Allegrozzi said:
“Government forces have deliberately and unlawfully attacked people. It is shocking that they bombed residential areas in seeming response to the violence that occurred in Brazzaville days before. Instead they should have taken lawful steps to ensure that criminal suspects are brought to justice."
Witnesses told Amnesty that areas affected by the air strikes are now deserted.
People living in villages near Soumouna have either fled to the bush or to other towns including the capital Brazzaville.
A woman who fled the village of Ngula to Brazzaville with her family told Amnesty:
“Many people have been killed following the bombing. I saw at least 30 dead bodies between Soumouna and Ngula. The air strikes also led to lot of material damage.”
The bombings constitute a clear violation to the right to life and should be subject to a thorough, independent and impartial investigation.
Amnesty interviewed a dozen eye witnesses, local activists and journalists by phone and corroborated their statements by analysing information in the media.
Gunfire broke out in the streets of Brazzaville on Monday 4 April 2016. Young people raised barricades in the southern neighbourhood of Makelekele calling for President Denis Sassou Nguesso to step down.
One building belonging to a local mayor’s office and two police stations were set ablaze and armed men attacked an army barracks.
Since the results of the elections were rejected by part of the opposition, the Congolese authorities have conducted a series of arrests against leading opposition figures, including senior campaign officials of candidates Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko and Okombi Salissa, accusing them of compromising national security.
Amnesty and local human rights organisations have called on authorities to release political opponents detained for peaceful criticism of the recent elections, put an end to arbitrary arrests and detentions, and avoid any repression of peaceful protests.
There are reports that 17 people were killed and several more injured between 5 and 10 April during violence in the capital Brazzaville.