Fourteen members of a religious sect aiming to revive the pre-colonial Kongo kingdom died in clashes between police and locals in western Democratic Republic of Congo, the interior ministry said.
The Bundu dia Mayala (BDM) sect wants to restore the kingdom that thrived for centuries around the mouth of the Congo River and includes portions of Congo, Congo Republic, Angola and Gabon.
BDM clashed sporadically with government forces previously and tensions escalated over the past month, with the group telling local media it is unhappy about government treatment of its leader, self-styled prophet and former member of parliament Ne Muanda Nsemi.
Seven police officers were seriously injured in a raid on a house in Kongo-Central province, where BDM members gathered to pray, interior minister Gilbert Kankonde said in statement.
“Facing strong resistance the local population resolved to lend a hand to police, which led to the stampede and demolition of the house,” Kankonde said.
Security forces found several guns, ammunition and poison-tipped arrows, Kankonde said. BDM’s spokesperson was not reachable for comment.
Nsemi, who has a strong following in Kongo Central province, led deadly protests against former President Joseph Kabila in 2017, leading to his arrest.
Shortly after in May 2017 his supporters, often wearing quasi-military blue shirts and red berets or bandanas, attacked Kinshasa’s main prison where Nsemi was held, freeing him and others.
After two years on the run he re-appeared at a press conference in Kinshasa last year, pledging to contribute to development of the country.