Protests in eastern DR Congo cities over militia killings

Three cities in eastern DR Congo were brought to a near-standstill on Friday, and one person died, in protests over a surge in killings by a notorious armed group, local sources said.

Beni, Oicha and Butembo in North Kivu province were virtually paralysed in response to protests called by an organisation called Veranda Mutchanga, they said.

In Beni, shops were closed, the schools failed to open and streets were deserted, an AFP reporter said. Angry youths placed barricades across some streets, which were later removed by police.

In Oicha, the chief town in the territory of Beni, “a demonstrator died of gunshot wounds, and two others were injured,” the local mayor, Nicolas Kikuku, told AFP.

The shooting happened as police were trying to remove a barricade, witnesses said.

In Butembo, a commercial hub of a million people, normal activity ceased, several residents said.

The protests were called after at least 15 people were killed in nearby Bulongo on March 15 — the latest in a string of killings blamed on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

The historically Ugandan Islamist group has been present in eastern DR Congo since 1995. 

It has the reputation of being the bloodiest of the 122 militias that roam the eastern provinces Democratic Republic of Congo.

The UN’s refugee agency reported on Friday that an “alarming increase” in ADF attacks since the start of the year had claimed 200 lives in the Beni area and in nearby villages in Ituri province.

An estimated 100,000 have fled their homes, it said.

On March 11, the United States labelled the ADF a “foreign terrorist organization” linked to the so-called Islamic State (IS) group.