Conflicts between the Banunu and Batende communities also prompted a displacement of 16,000 people in Dec. 2018.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNCHR) said Wednesday that violence from ethnic groups have caused hundreds of deaths in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
"At least 890 people were killed between Dec. 16 and 18 in four villages in Yumbi territory, Mai-Ndombe province... in what appears to have been clashes between the Banunu and Batende communities," UNCHR said in a statement which indicates that the number of deaths could be higher.
The ethnic clashes began in Kinshasa after the death of a Banunu traditional chief whose body was returned to Yumbi and buried next to his father's grave.
The Batende people protested, arguing that the chief should not have been buried on their lands, starting a dispute on Dec. 15. The following day, an upsurge in violence at dawn resulted in the death of several people including the Yumbi territory administrator, and a dozen children drowned in the Congo River.
UNCHR suggests there were at least 82 injuries, and 465 houses and other buildings burned. The affected population - including an estimated 16,000 people, who sought asylum on the other side of the river - were forced to move.
“It is crucial that this shocking violence be promptly, thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators be brought to justice,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said, adding that “this is essential to ensure justice for the victims of these horrific attacks, but also to prevent new episodes of intercommunal strife, and to address the anger and feelings of gross injustice that may otherwise lead to repeated cycles of violence between communities.”
However, there is a deeper conflict between the two ethnic groups, who tend to experience clashes around election time, as evidenced when the Banunu majority and the Batende minority faced off with each other before the 2006 and 2011 elections.
During the recent elections held on Dec. 2018, the Batende people were in favor of the official Common Front for the Congo (FCC), while their Banunu counterparts supported the Lamuka coalition, led by Martin Fayulu.
In fact, due to the likely consequences of these political alignments, Congo's Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) decided on Dec. 26 to postpone elections in Yumbi until March 2019.