According to local sources, at least 930 detainees escaped from a prison in Beni (North Kivu) on Sunday, June 11. Heavy gunfire was reported when unidentified assailants attacked the prison at approximately 15:30 (local time), killing eight soldiers. A nightly curfew starting at 18:30 (local time) has been established in Beni and surrounding areas and will remain in place until further notice. A large-scale search operation by security forces is likely as they attempt to track down escapees. Security forces are known to be heavy-handed and search operations could result in violent clashes.
Multiple attacks of this nature at prisons across the DRC have been reported in the past month. Overnight June 10-11, two similar attacks occurred in the capital Kinshasa, one inside the Mont Amba district police station and one at a Matete courthouse, both located in the Matete district. On May 17, 4600 detainees escaped from the Makala prison in Kinshasa. On May 19, approximately 70 prisoners escaped from Kasangulu jail in Kongo Central province. It is unclear if the prison breaks are related.
The DRC faces increasing political polarization as a result of President Joseph Kabila’s resolve to remain in power beyond his constitutional limit, which expired at the end of 2016. According to civil society groups, these various attacks highlight popular discontent over the ongoing political crisis, with some opposition parties believing the attacks are attempts to further delay planned presidential elections, currently slated to be held before the end of the year.
Security measures have increased in Kinshasa since the Makala prison attack. On June 2, the US Embassy in Kinshasa reported that a number of new security checkpoints have been setup in the city. The US Embassy advises travelers to slow down when approaching checkpoints, comply with officers and soldiers as directed, remain calm and courteous, ask permission to pull the vehicle aside if soldiers insist on searching the car, and only leave the checkpoint once instructed to do so.
Individuals present in the DRC are advised to monitor the situation and to obey all instructions issued by the local authorities.
More generally, individuals in the DRC are advised to exercise caution and maintain a low profile at all times. For various security reasons, a number of Western governments advise their citizens against travel to the east and northeast of the country.
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