By Erikas Mwisi
BENI, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – Suspected Islamist militants killed at least 20 civilians in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo overnight, according to a local resident and an activist who criticised the failure of Congolese and Ugandan forces to stop the repeated massacres.
The attack late on Sunday evening in the village of Kikura was blamed by the resident and the activist on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan militia that has killed thousands of civilians in eastern Congo since 2013.
Congolese and Ugandan troops launched joint operations against the ADF in late November but attacks by the group, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State, have continued to kill dozens of civilians each month.
The assailants struck at around 9 p.m. with machetes and also burned down houses, said Odette Zawadi, the president of a local activist organisation. She said 20 bodies had been recovered and that the death toll could rise further.
“We already didn’t seem to have confidence in these so-called joint operations. How can you explain that 20 people are killed in the presence of these two forces?,” she told Reuters.
Claude Kalinde, a local resident, confirmed that 20 bodies had been recovered.
“We thought that the coalition of the Congolese and Ugandan armies would help us, but look at how sad this is,” he said.
Capitaine Antony Mwalushayi, a spokesman for Congo’s army, said it had taken a while for soldiers in the area to learn of the attack since it was carried out without firearms.
“We cannot be discouraged because the objective of the enemy is to discourage us, to separate us from the population,” he said.
A spokesman for Uganda’s army was not immediately available to comment.
The ADF started as an uprising in Uganda but has been based in Congo since the late 1990s. It pledged allegiance to Islamic State in 2019, but United Nations researchers have found no evidence of Islamic State control over its operations.
(Additional reporting by Elias Biryabarema in Kampala; Writing by Aaron Ross, editing by Ed Osmond)