A series of sleepy towns dot the upper reaches of the Congo River, which in northern Katanga province becomes known as the Lualaba. One of these sunbaked towns is Kongolo, a trading center with some 27,000 inhabitants. Here a dusty road leads into the rolling hills and an imposing complex of buildings breaks the alternate monotony of cotton fields and tall elephant grass. The complex represents the focal point of a wide area of Roman Catholic influence, and it includes a small cathedral, a seminary, and a cemetery.* Few non-Africans had ever heard of Kongolo until last month, when it gave rise to an account of one of the worst anti-clerical atrocities of modern times.
The account was provided by an African seminarian who fled from Kongolo. This was the essence of his story:
On New Year’s Eve, a group of soldiers and several hundred youth descended upon the compound, ignoring a white flag which the missionaries had raised. The troops searched the premises and ordered students out. The next morning the troops were back. They checked the identity cards of all the Belgian priests stationed there, then turned on them. The priests were lashed while African students stood back and watched at gunpoint. Following the beatings, the priests were led away and machine-gunned to death. Then their bodies were dismembered and the students were forced to dispose of the mutilated members in the Lualaba.
The town of Kongolo had been abandoned by Katanga troops on December 28. Katanga President Moise Tshombe said he had been forced to pull out of Kongolo in the face of heavy pressure from United Nations and central government forces. Other sources said the Kongolo invaders represented the rebel regime at Stanleyville headed by leftist Antoine ...1
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