An armed group has killed at least 20 civilians in a raid on a village in northeast Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This is the latest incident in a surge of ethnic violence that has forced 200,000 people from their homes in two months.
Local authorities say fighters from the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO) militia attacked Hema village in Ituri province at about 1am on Sunday. The CODECO militia is made up of fighters from the Lendu ethnic group.
Solo Bukutupa, a local administrator said “they cut with the machetes several of my compatriots. 20 people have already died and more than 14 are seriously injured. It’s unbearable to see people die like that.”
The attackers fled after United Nations peacekeepers arrived at the village. According to UN sources, they later opened fire on a nearby UN base.
According to Pilo Mulindro who is a tribal chief, women and children were among the victims. He said: “The victims are of all ages, children, youths, women and old men, killed by machete, by knife or by firearm”.
Fighting by an array of armed groups in the region has complicated the DRC’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. It has also affected the response to the Ebola epidemic that has killed more than 2,200 people since 2018.
CODECO split into several competing factions after the Congolese army killed its leader Justin Ngudjolo in late March.
Earlier this month, Ngabu Ngawi Olivier, who claimed to have taken over the leadership of CODECO, surrendered to the military and called for the militia to lay down its weapons.
Another faction later issued a statement denouncing Olivier as an impostor. No fighters have followed Olivier’s orders yet, said army spokesman Jules Ngongo.