Seventeen people have been killed in clashes between DR Congo police and members of a cult that believes the end of President Joseph Kabila’s mandate will usher in the apocalypse, a regional governor said.
Bienvenu Esimba, governor of DR Congo’s northwestern Mongala province, said the clashes broke out Wednesday in the provincial capital Lisala when members of the sect burned dozens of houses and attacked a market before launching an assault on local electoral commission offices.
“The toll from the clashes is 14 militiamen from the political-religious cult and three dead police officers,” Esimba told.
A local Catholic priest confirmed that cult members had launched the attack.
DR Congo is mired in political crisis two days after Kabila’s second and final term in office had been due to end on December 20, with no indications that he is planning to step down.
Esimba said the cult members, armed with AK-47 assault rifles, had burned 47 houses and attacked the offices of the electoral commission because they judged the institution to be “useless”.
Troops had to step in to “neutralize” the guru Wami-Nene during the three hours of violence until midday on Wednesday, he said, adding that security forces had “acted in legitimate defence”.
The situation was calm by this morning, Esimba said.
Lisala lies on the Congo River deep in the rainforest, some 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) northeast of the capital Kinshasa.