Eighteen people were killed on February 15 in an attack in remote northeast Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by CODECO, a notorious ethnic militia, a local official and a civilian campaigner said.
Innocent Matukadala, head of the Banyali Kilo administrative area in Ituri province, said18 people had been killed by “CODECO militiamen”.
“People are angry. Tensions are high but we are trying to calm things down,” he said.
The assailants used “machetes, arrows, firearms. Seven children and six women were among the victims,” said Jean-Robert Basiloko, who represents civil society groups in Banyali Kilo.
Concurring sources say that UN peacekeeping troops and humanitarian groups had left the area, located in Djugu territory, several weeks ago.
CODECO – the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo – is a political-religious sect that claims to represent the interests of the Lendu ethnic group.
The Lendu and Hema communities have a long-standing feud that led to thousands of deaths between 1999 and 2003 before intervention by a European peacekeeping force.
Violence then resumed in 2017, blamed on the emergence of CODECO.
Since then, CODECO attacks have caused hundreds of deaths and prompted more than 1.5 million people to flee their homes, while half of the region’s population faces food insecurity, according to the Danish Refugee Council.
Sixty-two people, mainly from the Hema, were killed in early February when machete-wielding men attacked a camp for displaced people.
Eastern DRCis home to scores of armed groups, many of them a legacy of bloody wars in the 1990s.
In a separate incident overnight on February 13, seven people were killed in the neighbouring province of North Kivu by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a local source said.
The attack targeted the village of Ndiva, said Odette Zawadi, a representative for NGOs at Watalinga in the territory of Beni.
Four “ADF terrorists” were killed, the Congolese army’s spokesman for the region, Captain Anthony Mualushayi, said.
The Islamic State group describes the ADF, the bloodiest group in the region, as its local affiliate.
Ndiva lies 9km from the headquarters of the Ugandan military mission in the DRC.
Ugandan troops entered the country on November 30 in a joint anti-ADF operation with Congolese forces.
Both Ituri and North Kivu have been under a “state of siege” since May.
Under it, senior civilian positions in the provinces have been taken over by army or police offices, in a declared bid to speed up actions against armed groups. Despite the measure, attacks continue.