UN peacekeepers and the Congolese authorities must act urgently to protect civilians in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from a spate of sporadic attacks by armed rebels which has left at least 100 dead in recent weeks, said Amnesty International today.
Last night, 18 civilians were reported to have been killed and seven seriously wounded by the armed group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), in Kampi ya Chuyi approximately 75 kilometres from Beni town.
The attacks on innocent civilians by ADF and other armed groups in Beni territory are believed to be in retaliation to military operations launched in January this year by the Congolese army with the support from the United Nations peacekeeping force.
While “Operation Sokola 1” meaning “Operation Clean-up” in Lingala, forced the rebels from their forest base, they now appear to have re-grouped launching a series of attacks carrying out arbitrary killings and kidnappings against civilians.
Since the start of this month, organisations monitoring the situation report that at least 100 civilians have been killed, 27 seriously wounded and ten abducted by the ADF in Beni territory. Victims were killed with firearms, machetes, axes and hoes.
Earlier this month, (17 October), in Eringeti, a village in Beni territory, at least 21 civilians were killed, a further two died as a result of injuries sustained in a similar attack and six more were abducted. The ADF reportedly committed similar attacks on civilians in other areas, including Mayimoya, Kisiki, Linzo, Maibo villages and Beni town.
There have also been reports of abductions and the destruction and looting of civilian property by the ADF.
Amnesty International East Africa Deputy Director Sarah Jackson said:
“The escalation of violence since the beginning of the month, should act as a wake-up call for the Congolese Government and the UN peacekeepers, and they must make every effort to protect the local population from these virulent attacks.
“A clear message also has to be sent to the ADF and other armed groups that they cannot get away with attacks on civilians. Authorities in Democratic Republic of Congo should do all they can to bring about swift, impartial and independent investigation into these attacks.”
Amnesty urges both the ADF and the Congolese army to adhere to international humanitarian law and calls upon them and UN peacekeepers to ensure full protection of civilians.