Indian traders in Kinshasa stayed indoors and shuttered their shops on Friday after the murder of a Congolese woman in India prompted violent reprisals in the city.
On Thursday, residents in one of the Congolese capital’s poorest neighbourhoods responded to the news of the killing of one of their compatriots in Hyderbad by attacking Indian-owned shops.
In reports widely circulated on social media in Congo, Indian newspapers on Wednesday said an Indian man killed his wife, Cynthia Vechel, whom he accused of adultery, and cut up her body in an effort to conceal the crime.
The next morning, at Ngaba roundabout, in one of Kinshasa’s poorest districts, residents thew stones at several Indian-owned shops and tried to lynch some of their owners, according to several witnesses.
“We want to avenge our sister,” said a street hawker who only gave his name as Rodrigue.
As in many African countries, much of Congo’s retail sector, especially for clothes, cosmetics and electrical goods, is dominated by traders of Indian origin. On Friday, all stalls run by Indians were closed for the second day in a row.
Anti-Indian sentiment also surfaced in May, following the murder of a young Congolese teacher by three Indians in New Delhi. This prompted Congolese authorities to urge citizens not to take the law into their own hands by attacking Indians. “There haven’t been any riots but tension is high,” said Blanchard Mwadi, a worker in an Indian shop, adding the Indian community was mostly staying indoors.
Modi started a four-nation African tour on Thursday in an effort in an effort to catch up with China’s strong economic presence on the continent. This week’s incidents took place against a backdrop of widespread economic frustration and political uncertainty, as Kinshasa resident David explained.
“It’s all the government’s fault. This government doesn’t care about its people,” he said.
“If they want to stay in power, they need to think about the people, but they don’t: living conditions are terrible, inflation is through the roof and spending is being cut. It’s serious, he added.
President Joseph Kabila, who has been in power since 2001, is widely believed to be considering casting aside the constitution to take a third term in office after his tenure expires at the end of the year.
“We are worried the country could flare up,” said trader Elie Nkunda. “People could say ‘let’s be done with it’ any time.”