At least 14 killed in militant attack on Congo church last Sunday
Fighters from the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO) rebel group have killed at least 14 people in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The militant group is one of several armed organisations active in eastern DRC following regional wars that erupted in the late 1990s and 2000s.
Djugu territory administrator Ruphin Mapela and civil society leader Dieudonne Lossa confirmed that nine civilians, four assailants and a soldier were killed. Another ten people were injured and others were missing.
Lossa added: “The victims were praying to the Lord, but unfortunately militiamen identified as CODECO opened fire on them”. Mapela said that militants attacked Mesa, Cepac and Aumopro churches located near the shore of Lake Albert in the Bahema-Nord dominion.
Jacques Uguzi Amopi, a senior member of a local youth association, later corroborated that 15 bodies including three women were found and collected by relatives.
Ituri army spokesman Jules Ngongo Tshikudi said: “We call on the population to remain calm as the armed forces pursue these criminals to put them out of action”.
According to the United Nations, after a decade of peace, the conflict between the Hema and Lendu communities in Ituri province started over in 2017, resulting in thousands of civilian deaths and forcing more than 1.5 million people from their homes. Civilians continued to experience serious human rights violations, including mass killings and inter-communal violence, summary executions, rape, arbitrary arrests, looting of property, a crackdown on dissent and ill-treatment of detainees. Authorities continued to show a lack of political will to hold the perpetrators to account. The right to education was also violated. At the most extreme end of the scale, women who converted to Christianity were forcibly married, impregnated or divorced. Christian leaders who spoke out against corruption experienced harassment and interference from the government.
Accused of ethnic killings the CODECO comprises several thousand fighters and claims to protect the Lendu community from a rival ethnic group, the Hema, as well as the Congolese army. Ituri and neighbouring North Kivu province have been under siege since May 2021. The army and police took over powers from civilian authorities.