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DR Congo: Dozens killed in militant attack on refugee camp

February 2, 2022

At least 60 people were reported killed by militants at a camp for displaced persons in Democratic Republic of Congo. The attack was blamed on continued violence because of ethnic tensions in the east of the country.

People carry water at a refugee camp
A displaced persons' camp in eastern DRC seen in 2003. Violent communal tension in the region continues to this dayImage: Maurizio Gambarin/dpa/picture-alliance

Militants attacked a displaced persons camp in the Ituri province of the Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC) overnight into Wednesday, killing at least 60 people, according to local media and humanitarian groups.

Ndalo Budz, who is the head of the Plaine Savo displaced persons site, told local media that fighters raided the camp and killed people in shelters with machetes and other weapons.

The Savo site was home to about 4,000 people as of December, according to the UN's migration agency.

Who carried out the attack?

Budz said fighters affiliated with a group known as Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO) were responsible for the killings. 

"I first heard cries when I was still in bed, then several minutes of gunshots. I fled and I saw torches and people crying for help and I realized it was the CODECO militiamen who had invaded our site," a camp resident told Reuters news agency. 

The group, which emerged in 2017, claims to defend the rights of the Lendu community in Ituri province, which is located in the far northeast of the DRC, near the border with Uganda.

A young man holding up a rifle
A Lendu militiaman seen in 2005, giving up his weapon to a UN disarmament mission Image: epa Gare/dpa/picture-alliance

The area has long seen violence in a feud between the Lendu and Hema communities. 

Fighting between the groups reached a high point between 1999 and 2003, with tens of thousands of people killed before intervention by the European Union was able to stop the widespread violence. 

Militants continue to be active in the eastern DRC, and CODECO fighters have killed hundreds of civilians in Ituri province in recent years and forced thousands to flee their homes, according to the United Nations

Attacks on displaced person camps killed 123 people in the course of one week in late 2021, according to the US-based Kivu Security Tracker (KST), which did not specify what group or groups were behind the attacks.

wmr/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)