Friday, 19 May 2017

CONGO DR: Prisoners Escape After Jail Breaks

Dozens of prisoners escaped from a jail in Democratic Republic of Congo early Friday, less than 48 hours after rebels attacked Kinshasa's main prison, freeing their leader and 50 others.

Among the 74 prisoners housed in the dilapidated prison in Kasangulu, 68 escaped,local lawmaker Jean-Claude Vuemba saying the breakout occurred at around 1:00 am.

The town lies about 40 kilometres (25 miles) southwest of the capital Kinshasa in the Kongo Central province.

Ten of the escaped prisoners were quickly "recaptured, said Vuemba who criticised the inmates' living conditions as deplorable.

A local human rights activist who visited the prison on Friday said she had seen only four people there, two of them women.

It was not immediately clear how the prisoners escaped, with police saying investigators had been dispatched from Kinshasa.

The incident occurred just two days after rebels from an outlawed political-religious group attacked Kinshasa's central prison.

The pre-dawn attack was carried out by followers of Bundu Dia Kongo (BDK), a secessionist rebel group that rejects Kinshasa's authority and wants to set up a parallel state in the west of the country.

Government sources said at least eight people died during exchanges of gunfire in the assault to free Ne Muanda Nsemi, an MP who is the spiritual leader of the BDK -- a group based in Kongo Central.

Nsemi was arrested in early March following a violent two-week siege of his home. The government has blamed his followers for a string of violent attacks since the start of the year.

By Wednesday evening, more than 4,000 of the 8,000 prisoners held in Makala prison were still missing, while 86 escapees had been returned, prisoner sources said.

There was no immediate suggestion the two jail breaks were related.

At least six people have been killed after 301 inmates staged a dawn jailbreak from an eastern Democratic Republic of Congo prison, media and an official said.

Gunfire rang out shortly before sunrise on Thursday at the prison in the city of Bukavu, residents said.

The inmates managed to force their way through the main gate a short while later.

We have just finished the tally, there were a total of 301 escapees, but 35 have already been recaptured, a police officer said.

The inmates managed to open the prison doors after taking weapons from guards, according to the officer.

Congo's UN-backed Radio Okapi reported six deaths in the breakout, of which three were inmates and three police.

Large numbers of police and soldiers surrounded the prison after the escape.

At least 1,600 prisoners were in the prison at the time of the breakout.

Congo's prisons are notoriously overcrowded and mismanaged, and escapes are common.

In late 2011, almost 1,000 prisoners escaped a jail in Katanga province following an attack to free a militia leader.