A United Nations (UN) reports on Tuesday, revealed that 535 people in Congo were shot, butchered and burnt to death during the three days of violence between local communities in the west of the country in December.
The agency, however said the number was lower than the 890 victims estimated in January. But UN rights investigators said in the report that there are likely additional people whose dead bodies were dumped in the Congo River.
Existing tensions between the Banunu and Batende communities exploded amid a dispute over the burial site of a Banunu traditional chief.
The Batende community opposed a burial in Yumbi city, regarding it as a claim on their land.
During the attacks, Batende villagers used hunting rifles, machetes, bows and arrows, and gasoline to target fleeing Banunu people, the team of UN investigators reported after having visited the area.
They heard reports of a 2-year-old child who was thrown into a septic tank, and a woman who was raped after her 3-year-old child was decapitated and her husband was killed.
Other people were burnt alive in their homes.
“In some cases, the attackers mutilated the bodies of their victims, cutting off heads, limbs and genitals,” the UN Human Rights Office said.
Many sources told the UN investigators that Batende chiefs were involved in planning the attacks.
In spite of clear signs of the tensions, Congo’s authorities “appear to have failed in their responsibility to protect the population” from these crimes against humanity, the report concluded.