Christian sect attacks Congo prison, frees leader, 50 others

Faith Castro
May 19, 2017

Security personnel sitting on a truck watch burned vehicles at the front gate of the Makala prison after it was attacked by supporters of jailed Christian sect leader Ne Muanda Nsemi in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo on May 17, 2017.

Ne Muanda Nsemi, the spiritual leader of the Bundu dia Kongo (BDK) movement, was arrested in March after his supporters got into a series of deadly clashes with police and he called for the overthrow of President Joseph Kabila.

Authorities believe that the attack was masterminded and carried by Nsemi followers.

Government officials say a police officer and at least five attackers were killed, while several sources say that up to 100 died.

Police late Wednesday said that "several risky criminals and the authors of terrible crimes" as well as the sect leader were hiding in different parts of the city and urged locals to hand them over.

Local residents told AFP there were "prolonged exchanges of fire".

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Mobutu was ousted by rebel chief Laurent-Desire Kabila, father of the embattled current president Joseph Kabila.

Nsemi has a strong follow following in southwestern Congo and wants to revive the Kongo kingdom, which flourished for centuries around the mouth of the Congo River. A former prisoner who spoke to guards and other prisoners also told Reuters that about half the prisoners had escaped.

A city official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the women's section was empty.

There are more than 8,000 prisoners locked up in Makala, which was built to house just 1,500 detainees when the country was under Belgian rule (1908-1960).

He added that some escapees have been arrested and returned to the prison, without giving further details.

Mr Nsemi leads the Bundu dia Kongo movement, which is campaigning to restore a monarchy in parts of DR Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, Angola and Gabon. Kabila should have stepped down in December under a constitutionally mandated two-term limit. The opposition questions whether Kabila will yield power.

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