Dozens of people killed in militia attack in eastern Congolese Democratic Republic

Beni, Democratic Republic of the Congo — According to the head of a local humanitarian organization and camp residents, dozens of people were killed in a militia attack early Wednesday morning at a refugee camp in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Both sources told Reuters that the CODECO militia was responsible for the killing at Greenwich Mean Time at Sabo Camp in Ituri.

Ituri army spokesman Jules Ngongo confirmed the attack by CODECO and tentatively killed about 20 people.

Congolese troops contacted the militias on Tuesday night, but the assailants turned around and arrived at the camp past them, he said.

CODECO is one of a series of militias operating in eastern Congo amid long-standing tensions over land and resources. According to the United Nations, the fighter killed hundreds of civilians in Ituri and fled thousands of them from their homes.

In recent months, it has targeted evacuation camps where some people settled after escaping other attacks by CODECO.

“When I was still in bed, I first heard a cry. Then a few minutes of gunshots. I ran away and saw the torches and people crying for help on our site. I realized that it was the CODECO militia who invaded the camp, “said Lokana Bale Lussa, a camp resident.

“We counted more than 60 dead and (more) seriously injured,” he said. “We really need security because we don’t have access to our farms and are now being pursued in camps.”

Charite Banza Bavi, chairman of a humanitarian group in the northern region of Bahema, has killed 63 people.

“According to the initial report, as many as 59 civilians were killed and another 40 were injured,” the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said in a statement. Two students from an NRC-backed school were killed, adding that the perpetrators were using both guns and machetes.

Earlier Wednesday, the NRC said about 68 people had died in attacks on five different camps in the same area since November.

CODECO fighters are mainly collected from Lendu’s agricultural community, which has long been in conflict with Hema nomads.

According to the NRC, there are 24,000 people living in the Sabo shelter, 1.7 million of whom have been evacuated in Ituri. At least 1,200 civilians were killed in Ituri in 2021.

By Erikas Mwisi Kambale