Over 800 Inmates Escape DR Congo Prison

This is not the first jailbreak attempt at the prison, but this is the most successful, with over 800 inmates escaping. The Kakwangura prison was built to hold 120 inmates and has had an overpopulation problem over the years.

The Democratic Republic of Congo army, FARDC, has confirmed that more than 800 inmates escaped from the Kakwangura prison in Butembo, after a jailbreak yesterday.

Eleven people were killed in the process.

Captain Anthony Mwalushayi, the army’s Operations Sokola 1 spokesperson, said the assailants were Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) combatants who came from the Mwalika valley in Graben to free their comrades, notably ADF women who were detained in Kakwangura while waiting to be evacuated to other provinces.

The army spokesperson revealed that the operation was carried out by eighty ADF elements who took just fifteen minutes to complete their mission, contrary to previous reports that Mai-Mai rebels did it. 

“Investigations have very much evolved since 2:30 hours this Wednesday. The Butembo central prison was effectively attacked by ADF/MTM (Madina at-Tauheed Wau Mujahedeen) terrorists from the Mwalika valley in Butembo. Their supporters helped them to carry out operations which consisted in recruiting by force. Recently, the enemy wanted to attack the Kangbayi prison in Beni. We put in the necessary force to foil the attack. Unfortunately, the enemy changed its option because all the ADF arrested in Beni were transferred to other provinces, and there is none in Beni,” Captain Anthony Mwalushayi revealed at a press briefing.

“During this operation which took 15 minutes, we intervened late. The enemy was heavily armed and had eighty elements who carried out the operation. They succeeded in breaking the prison door and broke out the prisoners.”

Captain Mwalushayi said eight persons, including five assailants and two policemen among the security forces guarding the prison, were killed. The assailants killed one civilian who refused to carry the goods the assailants had looted.

“There were two policemen who were on guard who died. Reinforcements came late, after fifteen minutes, and the enemy who very well knew that the army and the police were going to send reinforcements within fifteen minutes did not waste time,” regretted Captain Mwalushayi, adding that the army, all the same, captured two assailants and recovered three AK-47 rifles and several ammunitions.

On his part, Jean-Baptiste Musayi, president of the civil society of the Vulamba council where the Kakwangura prison is located, revealed that of the 874 prisoners counted the previous evening, 822 succeeded in fleeing.

Only 52 prisoners responded present after the evasion. These included 27 military detainees and 25 civilians.

By yesterday afternoon, the DR Congo army announced that it had recaptured 115 of the prisoners who escaped.

The escape of the prisoners has put neighbourhood inhabitants on alert, with special attention paid to strange faces in the area.

Three youths who were among those who attacked the prison were lynched by the population in the Kalemire quarter of Mumole later in the day, bringing to eleven the total number of people dead following the spectacular attack.

Before the army confirmed that the ADF carried out the attack, several observers doubted whether the ADF could pull off such an attack.

One of the escaped prisoners revealed that immediately after the assailants entered the prison, they met with one of the detainees who had been telling other prisoners before the arrival of the assailants that he was an ADF combatant.

“He was the first to be released, followed by the others,” the escapee-prisoner revealed.

Concerning the composition of the assailants, “there were women and children among them as is always the case with ADF teams”, one other prisoner said.

As concerns the trajectory taken by the assailants, they are said to have taken the Mutsanga-Vuhira-Mavono highway situated to the east of Butembo, which permits access to Graben Isale where the ADF operates notably in the Virunga national park. At the same time, the most active Mai-Mai groups around Butembo are based in the Butuhe region or on the Butembo-Manguredjipa highway to the northeast and west of Butembo, respectively.

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Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian investigative journalist and traditional ruler. He writes for international media and has participated in several transnational investigations. Etahoben won the first-ever Cameroon Investigative Journalist Award in 1992. He serves as a member of a number of international investigative journalism professional bodies including the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). He is HumAngle's Francophone and Central Africa editor.

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