KINSHASA, Apr 25 – At least 14 people were killed in a stampede Friday during a tribute festival in the Democratic Republic of Congo for a popular African music star.
“The provisional toll, which we deeply regret, stands at 14 dead — including two policemen — and eight wounded,” said Camille Sesep, a spokesman for Bandundu, the native province of the late singer King Kester Emeneya.
“The government is busy taking charge of the victims,” he added.
Crowds had massed in his hometown of Kikwit to celebrate the memory of the popular and innovative Congolese singer who died in Paris in February.
“A rush due to the enthusiasm of the audience, who came in large numbers to watch events marking the first edition of the festival …, led to the death of people and damage to property,” the provincial governmment in a statement.
The authorities have cancelled the festival in honour of Emeneya, who introduced electronic instruments such as the synthesiser to Congolese music.
The provincial governor and local dignitaries went to the Kikwit hospital to “comfort the injured,” Sesep said, adding that people concerned about missing relatives should report to the authorities.
Thousands of people attended Emeneya’s funeral in Kinshasa last month after he died from heart problems in his adopted home of France at the age of 57.
King Kester Emeneya, whose given name was Emeneya Mubiala Kwamumbu, enjoyed a long career in music, with hundreds of songs to his name.
He sung for several years in the Viva la Musica band led by Papa Wemba, who won renown by helping to bring the highly popular sound of Congolese rumba to an international audience.
Emeneya went on to form his own group called Victoria Eleison, which celebrated 30 years of making music in 2012.
The band gave concerts in a range of countries across the world, while Emeneya acquired a reputation as a snappy dresser.
He followed the activities of Sape, a Kinshasa society of self-proclaimed “elegant people” who revere fashion designers like Gaultier, Dolce&Gabbana, Cerruti and others almost as gods.
But clothes vaunted by this movement are far out of reach of at least two-thirds of the population in Congo, where people lives on less than 1.25 dollars (less than one euro) a day.