In Nganza, a sleepy neighborhood in Kananga, the largest city in Congo’s central Kasai region, graves are everywhere. There are large pits by the dusty field where children play and countless smaller mounds scattered across front yards and side streets. Bushila Luboya, a 50-year-old carpenter, knows his son is buried in one of them, but he is unsure which one.
Luboya does know this, however: the Congolese soldiers who came marching into town last March, claiming they were there to hunt members of the Kamwina Nsapu militia, were responsible for his son’s death. According to multiple witnesses who survived the attack, the soldiers went door to door, indiscriminately killing civilians and looting homes. Ntanga, Luboya’s boy, was one of their victims. And his body was disposed of in a mass grave.
“I cannot explain how sad I am,” Luboya said, searching for his words.
Until recently, Kasai was a relatively peaceful part of Congo, a country worn down by decades of war. That changed in August last year, when government security forces killed a traditional chief called Jean-Prince Mpandi. Mpandi had called for an uprising against the state a few months earlier after then-Interior Minister Evariste Boshab
All rights reserved. To request permission to distribute or reprint this article, please visit ForeignAffairs.com/Permissions.