At least 46 people, half of them children, were killed in a militia attack on a camp for displaced people in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where civilians are suffering increasing violence.
A militia group involved in numerous brutal ethnic killings in the area attacked the camp in northeastern Ituri province overnight Sunday to Monday, Richard Dheda, an official of the local administration for Bahema Badjere in Djugu territory, told AFP.
The Kivu Security Tracker (KST), a network of observers based in DR Congo’s restive east, counted “at least 46” dead in the Lala camp.
Community leader Desire Malodra gave the same death toll of 46, adding that 23 of them were children.
He added that the toll was still provisional as “the search continues” for victims.
At least 46 civilians were killed and 6 wounded on Monday 12 June at the #Lala displaced persons camp (#Djugu territory, #Ituri) following an incursion by #CODECO. The massacre may have been a reprisal for acts of violence by #Zaire/#FPAC. #DRC pic.twitter.com/xiML7wlzxO
— Baromètre sécuritaire du Kivu (@KivuSecurity) June 12, 2023
A statement from the UN mission MONUSCO condemned the “vile attack” and reported “more than 45 dead and a dozen injured.”
‘People Were Burned to Death’
The CODECO militia, or Cooperative for the Development of the Congo, claims to protect the Lendu community from another ethnic group, the Hema, as well as the DR Congo army.
“They began to fire shots, many people were burned to death in their homes, others were killed by machete,” Malodra said.
The Lala camp for displaced people is five kilometers (three miles) from Bule, the site of a UN peacekeeper base.
Ituri province is one of eastern DR Congo’s violence hotspots, where attacks claiming dozens of lives are common.
CODECO militiamen attacked an army position in the Djukoth area of Ituri province’s Mahagi territory late on Saturday, killing seven civilians.
The group is accused of the massacre of more than 60 people in a grisly machete attack in another displacement camp in Ituri.
After a decade of calm, the conflict between the Hema and Lendu communities rekindled in 2017, resulting in thousands of deaths and forcing more than 1.5 million people from their homes.
Much of eastern DR Congo is plagued by dozens of armed groups, a legacy of regional wars that flared in the 1990s and 2000s.
Hundreds of thousands of displaced people in eastern DR Congo receive protection “almost exclusively” from UN troops, in one of the organization’s largest and costliest operations in the world.
The force has a current strength of about 16,000 uniformed personnel, mainly deployed in Congo’s east — a mineral-rich region that militias have plagued for three decades.
But the UN comes in for sharp criticism in DR Congo, where many people perceive the peacekeepers as failing to prevent violence. Dozens of people were killed during anti-UN protests last year.
UN Under-Secretary-General for peacekeeping operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix, who visited a camp in Ituri recently, said that peacekeepers should withdraw from the conflict-torn central African country “as quickly as possible” yet responsibly.
Meanwhile, in the neighboring province of North Kivu, an attack by suspected Islamic State group-affiliated ADF rebels left eight dead on Sunday, according to local sources.