Democratic Republic of Congo soldiers carry weapons as they patrol the main road to the eastern city of Goma. File picture: James Akena/Reuters

Johannesburg – The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has finally admitted for the first time that local officials played a role in sparking the slaughter of hundreds of people last December.

Between December 16 and 17 at least 535 civilians were killed during the inter-ethnic carnage that took place in three villages in Yumbi, a remote territory in western DR Congo on the banks of the Congo River some 350 kilometers north of the capital Kinshasa, the East African reported.

"What happened in Yumbi in December 2018 is not a source of pride for my country," DRC Human Rights Minister Marie-Ange Mushobekwa said in Geneva on Tuesday as she addressed the UN human rights council following the publication of a UN investigation carried out from January 17 to 26.

In addition to the killings, pregnant women were disemboweled and genital mutilations carried out.

The atrocities were perpetrated by the Batende using military-style tactics, with some of their members dressed in army fatigues, on the Banunu community over a land dispute.

Little attention was initially paid to the violence as the period coincided with tensions and violence taking place prior to the long-awaited presidential elections. Information began trickling out slowly at first but it took a full month before the scale of the slaughter emerged.

According to some sources members of the armed forces and local authorities were involved in the bloody assault which also appeared to be well planned before it was carried out.

"Local political and administrative actors manipulated the massacre, unfortunately leading to the nightmare we are describing today," Mushobekwa said, characterizing the conflict as "essentially linked to land".

After the bloodshed, the government replaced several territorial officials, including the police and intelligence chiefs, army staff and administrative personnel.

African News Agency (ANA)