Rival Muslim factions clash at Eid celebration at Kinshasa stadium
In an unfortunate turn of events at Martyrs’ Stadium in Kinshasa on Thursday, a policeman was killed in clashes between rival Muslim groups over the right to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Kinshasa Police Chief Sylvano Kasongo summarised the deadly scene to the media.
“Unfortunately, there were extremists on both sides who did not want reconciliation and to pray together. They threw projectiles, they violently attacked the police. We mourn the death of a police officer today.”
The official added that 40 people were hurt, 35 arrested and a police vehicle was burned outside the stadium — amid the fighting that replaced the true spirit of the traditionally peaceful Eid Al Fitr celebrations.
Papy Okitankoyi Kimoto, a local Muslim who had come out for the spiritual celebration is appalled by the situation.
“It’s a pity, we have done a month of Ramadan to come here to see these scenes of street guerrilla warfare like this. It’s a shame.”
The conflict’s roots lie in a years-long dispute between two rival factions over leadership of the Comico Muslim federation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Although leaders of the two rival wings of the Muslim community had guaranteed to the governor of Kinshasa that they would celebrate the end of Ramadan together, unfortunately, a policeman was killed in clashes,” spokesman Charles Mbutamuntu said.
While the case remains before the courts, the two sides remain at odds and occasionally come to blows as was the case on Thursday’s sacred holiday.
Around 10% of the DRC’s population is Muslim and the people are most concentrated in the country’s eastern region.
However, Kinshasa on the Congo River in the west of the vast central African country also is home to such religious mass celebrations at the end of Ramadan — held on major roads and in public squares.
Traditionally a moment of positive coming together to commune in a religion of peace, the event is traumatic for the Congolese who had come out to pray as a spiritual community.