Local militia in DR Congo launch second deadly attack in a week

JAN 20, 2023 LISTEN

The UN says another seven civilians have been killed by militia in a northeastern area of Democratic Republic of Congo by the same local militia blamed for killing 49 people discovered in mass graves earlier this week.

The UN's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said the latest attack took place overnight Wednesday at a camp for internally displaced people (IDP). Seven people were reportedly killed and many forced to flee.

Minusma, the UN's regional peacekeeping operation, deployed immediately after the overnight attack to secure the camp, 9km east of Djugu in Ituri province, and deter further violence, Haq said.

A local militia named Codeco – Cooperative for the Development of Congo – has been blamed for the attack.

Desire Malodra, a local civil society representative, said the militia had "killed, burned, and pillaged" the Plaine Savo IDP camp.

"We found seven bodies – five children and two adults," he said.

Mass graves

The attack followed the discovery on Tuesday of mass graves containing the bodies of 49 civilians in two other villages in Ituri.

Forty-two victims, including six children and 12 women, were found in a grave in the village of Nyamamba, while the bodies of seven other men were found in the village of Mbogi, Haq said.

Codeco is also believed to be behind that attack.
"Peacekeepers launched a patrol in the area immediately after receiving reports of [last weekend's] attacks on civilians," Haq said. "This is when they made the gruesome discoveries."

Haq said Monusco was “supporting the Congolese judicial system to investigate the attacks” and called “for the perpetrators to be brought to justice”. 

Rival militias

Codeco has been attacking villages, IDP camps and military positions in the Ituri hills for the past three years or so.

It claims to be defending the interests of the Lendu ethnic group against the army and the Hema tribe, which is defended by a rival militia called Zaire.

Last February, Codeco militia killed 62 people in a machete attack at the same camp.

Malodra said angry residents of the camp then attacked and "vandalised" Monusco's base in anger over their failure to intervene.

Similar anger erupted on Thursday morning when "protesters gathered in front of the Monusco base, throwing stones", a Monusco spokesperson told AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.

Three peacekeepers and five protesters were slightly injured, she said.

Deteriorating security

The longstanding feud between Lendu and Hema communities led to thousands of deaths between 1999 and 2003 before an intervention by a European peacekeeping force

Last June, seven Codeco factions announced an end to violence against civilians in Ituri.

However, they have gradually resumed attacks in the area.

Violence has escalated in recent weeks, after the killing of a teacher belonging to the Lendu farming community triggered reprisal attacks from Codeco. 

Codeco blamed the teacher's death on Zaire.

Haq has warned of a “significant deterioration of the security situation” in Ituri.

The UN says at least 195 civilians have been killed, 68 wounded and 84 people abducted since December during attacks attributed to both Codeco and Zaire militias. 

Haq said the violence was adding to an "already dire humanitarian situation in Ituri Province, which currently hosts 1.5 million displaced people".

(with wires)