UN secretary general condemns massacre of civilians by rebels in eastern DR Congo
Antonio Guterres calls for probe following killing of 52 people in Ituri province
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday condemned the weekend killing of dozens of civilians in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, calling on the authorities to investigate the massacre and bring those responsible to justice.
At least 52 people were killed in an attack attributed to the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) militia group in Djugu territory at a mining site in the Banyali Kilo administrative area of Ituri province, local authorities said Sunday.
More civilians were displaced and reported missing when the attackers set fire to nearby Malika village, where they also reportedly raped six women.
In a statement, Guterres strongly condemned the attacks.
“The Secretary-General expresses his deepest condolences to the families of the victims and wishes a swift recovery to those injured. He calls on the Congolese authorities to investigate these incidents and bring those responsible to justice,” the statement said.
On Monday, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) conducted a medical evacuation operation of severely injured civilians to medical facilities in Bunia, Ituri province.
“The Secretary-General also urges the authorities to ensure MONUSCO’s immediate, free and unimpeded access to the areas of the attacks to facilitate efforts to protect civilians,” it said.
Guterres reiterated calls on all armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to cease their callous attacks on civilians, participate unconditionally in the political process, including regional initiatives, and lay down their weapons through the Disarmament, Demobilization, Community Recovery and Stabilization Program.
Jules Ngongo, a spokesman for military operations in Ituri, said the killings resulted from clashes between two armed groups in the area vying for control of the gold mining quarry.
Unfortunately during their clashes, it is peaceful citizens who are used as human shields, he said.
President Felix Tshisekedi in a tweet condemned what he described as a repugnant and heinous crime and reaffirmed his “commitment to eradicate any insurgency on Congolese soil.”
“The government specifies that this barbaric and cowardly act by CODECO terrorists on innocent populations will in no way shake its determination to restore peace,” a government statement said.
CODECO has intensified attacks on villages in Ituri since last November, destroying nearly 1,300 houses in one such attack.
In February, a large-scale massacre attributed to CODECO militiamen left 62 people dead in an attack on a camp for displaced people.
Since last May, Ituri and North Kivu provinces have been under a "state of siege" where senior civilian officials in the state were replaced with army officers in a bid to curb growing insecurity.
However, rights activists and politicians say the siege has failed to stem violence.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.