Six soldiers have been arrested over the shooting of a schoolgirl at a military checkpoint in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s conflict-plagued east, local sources said Sunday.
The central African country’s government has placed the North Kivu and Ituri provinces under a state of siege since May 6 to try to stem militia violence.
Local civil society leader Fabrice Munphirwa said that on Friday in the village of Loashi “the driver of a bus refused to stop at an army checkpoint, where a soldier fired, hitting a schoolgirl who died on the spot”.
A provincial MP in North Kivu, Alexis Bahunga, said, “For not having paid a tax of 500 Congolese francs (25 US cents) required at a barrier erected by the FARDC (Congolese armed forces) in Loashi, a schoolgirl was shot by soldiers”.
North Kivu army spokesman Guillaume Njike said the girl was a “collateral victim” in an exchange of fire between soldiers and militia fighters.
The military intervened “to prevent the bus from being held up by militiamen”, he told AFP, adding that several soldiers had been arrested.
A military leader in the area, who declined to be named, said “for investigative purposes, six soldiers including the alleged shooter and their commander were arrested and referred to the military prosecutor’s office”.
Both provincial MP Bahunga and civil society leader Munphirwa accused the military of imposing illegal taxes on passers-by.
“We ask the authorities to remove these barriers,” Munphirwa told AFP. “We also need the regimental commander to explain where the money collected by the military ends up.”
As well as imposing the state of siege, President Felix Tshisekedi replaced senior civilian officials in North Kivu and Ituri with army and police officers.