Posted on September 15, 2008

Witchcraft Blamed for Deadly Congo Soccer Riot

CBC News (Toronto), September 15, 2008

Thirteen people are dead after a stadium riot was apparently sparked by accusations that a soccer player used witchcraft during a match in Congo, a UN-funded radio station reported Monday.

Most of the dead ranged in age from 11 to 16 and were suffocated in the fracas Sunday in Butembo, in eastern Congo’s North Kivu province, Radio Olapi said.

The Nyuki System soccer club was losing to rivals Socozaki when Nyuki’s goalkeeper reportedly ran up the pitch chanting “fetishist” spells in an attempt to change the course of the match, Radio Olapi said. The station provided no more details.

Fighting soon broke out between the opposing teams. When a police officer tried to intervene, spectators pelted him with rocks, wounding him on the head, the radio station said.

Police then retaliated by firing tear gas into the crowd, where 13 are believed to have died in the ensuing rush for the exits.

Many Congolese use charms and other objects to practise witchcraft as part of their traditional animist beliefs, Reuters news agency reported.

Dozens of teenagers marched through Butembo’s dirt streets Monday in protest and the regional governor visited the hospital.

North Kivu has been the centre of violence between Congo’s army and rebels over the last year despite the end of a five-year war in 2003.