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30.04.2021 Congo

DR Congo police break up protest in troubled east

By AFP
DR Congo's troops, pictured, are struggling to stem attacks on civilians by the ADF, a historically Ugandan Islamist group.  By Alexis Huguet (AFP/File)
LISTEN APR 30, 2021
DR Congo's troops, pictured, are struggling to stem attacks on civilians by the ADF, a historically Ugandan Islamist group. By Alexis Huguet (AFP/File)

Police and soldiers in eastern DR Congo used teargas and whips on Friday to disperse high-school students protesting at failures to stem massacres by armed groups, an AFP reporter saw.

At least three students were taken to hospital, one with a splint to the right leg, and several were arrested.

Several dozen students had been camping outside the town hall in the city of Beni over the past week, demanding the departure of the UN peacekeeping force MONUSCO and for President Felix Tshisekedi to visit the troubled region.

Beni, in North Kivu province, has borne the brunt of bloody attacks by a notorious armed group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

Branded a jihadist organisation by Tshisekedi and the United States, the ADF has killed more than 1,200 civilians in the Beni area alone since 2017, according to a monitor called the Kivu Security Tracker (KST).

Attacks have ramped up since late December 2019, when the armed forces launched an offensive on ADF, causing it to splinter into smaller units.

DR Congo's troubled eastern provinces.  By Gillian HANDYSIDE (AFP) DR Congo's troubled eastern provinces. By Gillian HANDYSIDE (AFP)

Local anger is being especially directed at MONUSCO, which is perceived as inactive or ineffective. The UN force has said it is being reinforced by a Kenyan unit to help combat the violence.

The ADF is one of an estimated 122 groups that roam the eastern border provinces of the vast Democratic Republic of Congo, many a legacy of regional wars in the 1990s.

On Thursday, Tshisekedi said he was drawing up "radical measures" to cope with the insecurity.

He did not go into detail, but on Monday, Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde, trailed a possible "state of security emergency" for the violence-wracked region.

He also urged the protesting students to return home.

"Don't allow yourselves to be manipulated by adults who are pursuing political ends," Tshisekedi said, adding that "MONUSCO is not responsible for the violence."

On Thursday, lawyer Elie Vahumau said 69 student protesters including 14 girls had been arrested, but would be released on Friday morning.

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