CODECO rebel attack kills 15 people in eastern DRC

Armed rebels have killed 15 people in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s troubled Ituri province, local sources said on Sunday, in the second such attack in days.

The sources said the CODECO (Cooperative for the Development of the Congo) militia, which claims to defend the interests of the Lendu ethnic group, again targeted people from the rival Hema tribe.

CODECO fighters ambushed users of a road near the village of Tali where they stopped 15 people, including one woman, on Saturday afternoon, said Jules Tsuba, a civil society leader in Djugu, a town in the area.

The militiamen tied them up and undressed them before killing them while some victims “had their throats cut, others were shot dead”, he said.

According to a humanitarian source, “the bodies of the victims bear the marks of torture”.

Ruphin Mapela, the territory’s administrator, confirmed the toll of 15 dead and said the attack came after months of peace.

CODECO was among several Congolese armed groups that signed a peace deal last year after negotiations in Nairobi. The United Nations has said there are as many as 120 armed groups in eastern DRC.

Efforts to reduce violence in the DRC have seen the deployment of thousands of South African troops as part of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) mission to fight against armed rebel groups in the east.

Gold-rich Ituri suffered a conflict between ethnic-based militias from 1999 to 2003 that killed thousands before the intervention of a European force.

Fighting flared again in 2017, killing thousands of civilians and triggering mass displacement.

Violence has been on the rise in the conflict-hit region in recent weeks, with many blaming attacks on the M23 rebel group that has been fighting Congolese soldiers in the region for years.

Kinshasa says M23, one of more than 120 armed groups in the region, is receiving military support from neighbouring Rwanda. Experts from the United Nations and the European Union have said there is evidence backing this but Rwanda denies the allegations.

But M23 has indicated in recent statements that it is amid an onslaught in eastern Congo, leading to fears the group is again targeting Goma, which it once seized 10 years ago.

Tsuba said he wanted the government to “accelerate the peace process” through a programme of disarmament and reintegration of militia fighters into their communities.

On Tuesday, a suspected CODECO attack left seven panners dead on mining sites in Djugu territory.


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