DRC militia kills 7, sparks backlash against UN peacekeepers
A notorious militia in eastern DR Congo attacked a camp for displaced people on Thursday, killing five children and two adults, sparking protests against UN peacekeepers, local health and civil society representatives said.
The CODECO rebels, one of countless armed groups operating in the restive, mineral-rich region, have been responsible for several brutal massacres over the past decade.
They claim to represent the Lendu ethnic group, and are acting in response to attacks by the Hema community, with whom it has a long-standing rivalry. However, its complaints are unclear.
Desire Malodra, a local civil society representative, said the militia had “killed, burned and looted” the Plaine Savo camp for the displaced in Ituri province early Thursday morning.
Also read: New clashes between M23, rival militias erupt in eastern DR Congo
“We found seven bodies – five children and two adults,” he said.
Last February, the Militia Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO) killed 62 people in a horrific machete attack in the same camp.
According to Malodra, angry residents of the camp then attacked and “vandalized” the base of the UN peacekeeping force MONUSCO in anger at their failure to intervene.
A MONUSCO spokeswoman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a patrol from the force had “went to secure the site” after the militia attack on the camp.
Early Thursday morning, “protesters gathered in front of the MONUSCO base and threw stones,” the spokeswoman said, adding that three peacekeepers and five protesters had suffered minor injuries.
She said the situation has since come under control.
Dr Aime Londjiringa, who heads a health center in Bule near the camp, said 23 injured people had arrived, three in “critical condition”.
He said seven of them had been injured in the camp and the others during the protest, including one with gunshot wounds.
UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said on Wednesday that there had been a “significant deterioration of the security situation” in the Ituri region.
He said at least 195 civilians have been killed in the area since December.
According to a report by AFP, more than 60 people died last week alone, most at the hands of CODECO, one of the most violent of over 100 armed groups in eastern DRC.
The Lendu and Hema communities have a long-running feud that led to thousands of deaths between 1999 and 2003 before an intervention by a European peacekeeping force.
The violence resumed in 2017, blamed on the rise of CODECO, which says it represents the Hema community.
Ituri has also been hit hard by violence attributed to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) – a group of Ugandan origin that the Islamic State group claims as its Central African branch.