Dozens of civilians were killed in militia attacks in eastern DR Congo

At least 40 people were killed when machetist militants attacked a place for displaced people in war-torn eastern Congo, a monitoring group and local sources said on Wednesday.

“At least 40 civilians were killed by gunfire last night in Plaine Savo” in Djugu’s territory, the US-based Kivu Security Tracker (KST) said on Twitter.

Local officials and civil society sources say the death toll is over 50, while Army spokesman for the Ituri province, Lieutenant Jules Ngongo, gave preliminary figures of 21 dead.

KST said the suspected attackers were from a notorious armed group called CODECO, accused of a series of ethnic massacres in the area.

The Djugu area, which borders Lake Albert and Uganda to the east, is the theater of a bloody, protracted feud between the Lendu and Hema communities.

The fighting between the two groups flared up between 1999 and 2003, claiming tens of thousands of lives before being crushed by the European Union’s peacekeeping force, Artemis.

The violence has resumed since 2017, with the blame for the emergence of CODECO – Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO) – which claims to defend Lendu.

Since then, CODECO attacks have caused hundreds of deaths and forced more than 1.5 million people to flee their homes, while half of the region’s population is facing food insecurity, says the Danish Refugee Council.

Attacks on camps for displaced people during an eight-day period in November-December led to 123 people being killed, according to KST.

MachetesJean Richard Dhedda Lenga, senior administrator of the Bahema Badjere district, said CODECO attackers attacked the site “around 9pm, 10pm” on Tuesday.

“We have a preliminary sum of 59 dead” and around 40 injured, he told AFP by phone.

“I have just left the area – young people are looking for other bodies in huts and in the bush.”

Desire Malo Dra, a representative of civil society groups in Bahema Badjere, said most of the victims were women and children.

“I have counted 53 bodies, others come in, they all gather here where I am,” he said.

“The militiamen came armed with machetes. Many victims had their throats cut off,” he said.

He added that the attackers “carried out their work calmly”, and the army arrived hours later, on Wednesday morning.

Ituri and the neighboring northern Kivu province were placed last year under a “siege permit”, a measure that gives exceptional powers to the army and police.

In addition to CODECO attacks, the region is fighting to stop the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), the most brutal of an estimated 122 armed groups roaming the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.


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