42 killed in troubled east DR Congo
15 August 2016, 15:00
Goma – At least 42 civilians have been killed in
the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a local official said on Sunday, in
what the government described as a massacre in revenge for military operations
in the area.
Three days of national mourning have been declared
following Saturday night's mass killing, the latest in a series of massacres
that have left more than 600 people dead in and around the troubled town of
Beni since 2014.
Speaking to a local radio station, Beni mayor
Edmond Masumbuko said 42 people had been killed. The government had earlier put
the death toll at 36.
Army spokesperson Mak Hazukay said the attack was
carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a partly Islamist armed
group of Ugandan origin.
The group has been present in DR Congo for more
than two decades and is accused of copious human rights abuses.
Hazukay said the ADF rebels had
"bypassed" army positions "to come and massacre the population
in revenge" for military operations in the area.
The victims were found in Rwangoma, a neighbourhood
on the outskirts of Beni, according to government spokesperson Lambert Mende.
Mende said the government has previously sought to
"alert the world to the jihadist threat" in DR Congo, adding:
"In our country, the armed forces of the DRC are alone in the face of the
indifference of the international community".
'Slaughtered like goats'
Around a hundred angry residents gathered in Beni
to protest against the mass killing, carrying the body of one of the victims
and shouting slogans against President Joseph Kabila, witnesses said.
Local human rights activist Jackson Kasereka said
residents in north Beni were burning tyres in the streets.
"The police have just taken the body off us
but we will continue to protest. It's not normal that they slaughter us like
goats," said motorcycle taxi driver Georges Kamate.
"Our government is incapable of keeping us
safe!" shouted another protester.
The killings came three days after Kabila visited
the region, promising to do everything in his power to bring peace and
"It's worrying because the president of the
republic came here and then we were massacred," said Gilbert Kambale, a
local civil society leader.
"There is a blatant lack of security, [the
authorities] are not capable of keeping the population safe. That is why these
people have come into the street," he said.
Government spokesperson Lambert Mende announced
three days of national mourning would begin from on Monday.
"Flags will be lowered to half-mast across the
country and media scheduling will be adjusted to the situation," he said.
String of massacres
Beni lies on the edge of the vast Virunga national
park, used as a hideout for some of the dozens of militant groups active in
The area has been badly hit by violence over the
past two years, suffering a series of massacres which the Congolese government
and the UN's mission in DR Congo, MONUSCO, have blamed on the ADF.
But in March, that allegation was recently
questioned in a report published by the Congo Research Group at New York
University, which looked into the massacres around Beni, and claimed that
soldiers from the regular army had also participated in the killings.
The government rejected the claims and said the ADF
was "definitely" responsible for the massacres.
The ADF, opposed to Uganda's President Yoweri
Museveni, is thought to be deeply embroiled in criminal networks funded by
kidnappings, smuggling and logging.
"MONUSCO condemns this barbaric act against
the civilian population, and reaffirms its support to the armed forces of the
Democratic Republic of Congo and the Congolese National Police to protect the
civilian population in Beni," the UN force's leader Maman Sidikou said in
Despite efforts by the international community and
the Congolese authorities, the region has remained mired in violence since the
end of the second Congolese war (1998-2003).
On August 8, 11 Congolese soldiers and a UN
peacekeeper were wounded in the Beni area during a confrontation with ADF
forces, MONUSCO said.