News of the deaths provoked protests among the population the following day in the diamond-rich city. Furious diamond miners accused the police of having suffocated 25 of their colleagues, and brought seven of their corpses to the Miba offices, demanding restitution from the provincial governor.
The demonstration was dispersed by local police, who were accused by local residents of using excessive force.
Human rights activists have concurred with the miners' allegations that the police blocked the entry to a tunnel in which 25 unauthorised miners who had secretly entered the Miba concession were hiding, resulting in their deaths by suffocation.
"The police or security agents of the company do not have the right to kill miners, even if they are there illegally," said Amigo Gonde, president of the Association africaine de defense des droits de l'homme, a human rights NGO based in the capital, Kinshasa.
Miba and local authorities, however, have provided a different version of what happened. For them, only about 10 people perished, and as the result of a cave-in, not a police action.
"One of the diggers died the previous night during a reprisal attack, because he had participated in an armed attack on Miba in an attempt to steal diamonds. Seven others died during a cave-in as they had entered an abandoned mine with the intention of digging a tunnel into an active Miba mine in order to steal diamonds," said Mike Mutombo Luamba, a Miba director in Kinshasa.
According to Miba authorities, clandestine intrusions of miners, as well as attacks by armed groups, are frequent on the Miba grounds. Last month, Miba workers were fired on by unidentified armed groups. Last year, Amnesty International denounced attacks mounted in the grounds of the Miba concession by the military, police, and Miba security agents.
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