Eighteen people were killed in clashes between two communities in western Democratic Republic of Congo earlier this month, according to a government report seen by AFP Sunday.
Fighting broke out between the Yaka and Teke people following a dispute over taxes and land, people in Mai-Ndombe province told AFP.
Members of the Teke community consider themselves the original inhabitants of villages spread over 200 kilometres (124 miles) along the Congo River.
In early August there was knifepoint fighting with the Yaka community, who settled afterwards, in the town of Kwamouth, about 100 kilometres from the capital Kinshasa.
“In the conflict between the Yaka and Teke in the province of Mai-Ndombe, 18 people were killed, including nine on the side of Yaka of Masia, including the chief of the land and his wife,” said Culture Minister Catherine Kathungu in the minutes of the Council of Ministers.
She added: “175 houses were burnt down and an AK47 weapon belonging to an element of the Congolese National Police was taken away by the Teke assailants”.
Rita Bola, the governor of Mai-Ndombe province, said Kwamouth was “calm now”.
“The army is now deployed all around to secure the population”, Bola said.
Members of the Yaka community had refused to pay a “customary royalty” to traditional Teke chiefs, said Abbe Felicien Boduka, president of the Justice and Peace Commission of the diocese of Inongo in Mai-Ndombe.
“We Yaka no longer wanted to pay this tax because the Constitution allows Congolese to settle freely anywhere on the national territory,” Gregoire Losoto, a development worker who abandoned his cassava fields and fish ponds in Kwamouth told AFP.
“The situation worsened in August because the Yaka installed their customary chief to replace a former Teke customary chief,” he said.
The Yaka chief and his wife were killed “by assailants”, according to several witnesses interviewed by AFP.