At least 14 civilians have been killed in fresh violence in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo and eight others suspected of collaborating with a notorious armed group have been lynched, sources said on Monday.
The Kivu Security Tracker (KST), an NGO which monitors violence in eastern DRC Congo, said at least 14 people were killed last Friday in three locations in Djugu territory, Ituri province, by assailants from a group called CODECO-URDPC.
Desire Malodra, a local civil society leader, said 15 people in the Djugu area died on Friday and Saturday in clashes between the DRC army and CODECO militiamen.
CODECO — for Cooperative for the Development of the Congo — is an armed political-religious sect that claims to defend the Lendu ethnic group.
It is one of more 120 armed groups that roam eastern DRC, many of them a legacy of bloody wars more than a quarter of a century ago.
The Lendu, mainly farmers, have been in historic conflict with the Hema community who are predominantly herders.
Tens of thousands of people on both sides died in a savage war between 1999 and 2003.
Violence returned in December 2017. CODECO has since been linked to more than 1,000 deaths.
A little further south, in Irumu territory, the army said eight civilians were “publicly lynched” on Thursday in Komanda, a town 75 kilometres (45 miles) south of the Ituri capital Bunia.
“We condemn (this) mob justice,” Lieutenant Jules Ngongo, the army spokesman in Ituri, told AFP.
The eight were from the Banyabwisha community, an ethnic group of Congolese Hutus with Rwandan roots.
In early June, the government accused members of the Banyabwisha community of “complicity” with the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a notorious Islamist armed group, following the massacre of some 50 civilians in Irumu territory.
The army urged the population not to “take justice into their own hands” but instead to inform on accomplices of armed groups so that the security forces could deal with them.
Gold-rich Ituri and neighbouring North Kivu province have been placed under a “state of siege” by President Felix Tshisekedi, who has vowed to clamp down on the violence.