KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — More than 160 people have been killed in two weeks of intercommunal violence in several villages of Congo’s northeast Ituri province, the governor said Tuesday, while the United Nations said some 300,000 people have been displaced.
Governor Jean Bamanisa told The Associated Press that 161 bodies had been found and authorities were still trying to determine the extent of the violence.
The violence has been taking place in a remote area of Congo near South Sudan and Uganda where the U.N. said it and humanitarian groups don’t have much access. Thousands of people were said to be sleeping in the open and without any kind of food aid.
Authorities believe the perpetrators were militia fighters from the Lendu community. Congo’s military believes they are linked to Mathieu Ngudjolo, who was acquitted of war crimes at the International Criminal Court in 2012.
Untold thousands of people lost their lives in conflicts between the Lendu and Hema communities between 1999 and 2004. U.N. peacekeepers were dispatched to Congo to try to maintain order and remain in the region combatting various rebel groups. New unrest was seen in 2017 and 2018.
The fresh violence involves both the Lendu and Hema groups, the U.N. refugee agency said, adding that the situation in Ituri had deteriorated in the past week.
“People are fleeing attacks and counter attacks in Djugu territory, with reports of both communities forming self-defense groups and being involved in revenge killings,” U.N. spokesman Babar Baloch told reporters in Geneva.
Baloch said they had received reports of “kidnappings, maiming and sexual violence” and that Congolese military operations were reportedly underway to calm the unrest.
Congo has one of the world’s largest numbers of displaced people, with some 4.5 million having fled various conflicts across the vast central African nation.
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