Jihadist hand seen in new Congo massacres

The murders of more than 250 men, women and children in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Beni Territory in recent weeks have widely been blamed on an Islamist insurgency of Ugandan origin known as the Alliance of Democratic Forces-NALU (ADF-NALU). But several armed groups and racketeering gangs are active in the area and the culprits of these killings have not been incontrovertibly identified. The killings were carried out, in various episodes between Oct. 2 and Dec. 7, using knives, machetes and hoes, in parts of Nord Kivu province, on some occasions in close proximity to positions held by the national army (FARDC) and bases of the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC (MONUSCO). Just in the 48 hours leading up to the night of Dec. 7, 50 people were killed in two parts of Beni territory, according to Civil Society in North Kivu, a local organization. (See map.)

The attacks have led more than 88,000 people to flee their homes, according to a statement released Dec. 9 by the humanitarian coordinator in DRC, Moustapha Soumare. "People are now living in abject fear of further attacks. In this climate of generalized insecurity, the reduction of humanitarian access to vulnerable people in affected areas has only increased their distress," he said.

A report published by a parliamentary delegation in late October after a tour of affected areas—Beni, Oicha Eringeti and Ngadi—detailed the brutality of earlier killing sprees: "There were smashed and burned houses; fabrics and bednets were used to bind the victims before slaughtering them, disembowelling them and cutting them up… The exceptionally violent killings were perpetrated in urban areas… The attackers used machetes, axes, hammers, knives, hoes, large stones and firearms… These attackers killed and looted [goats, chickens and food] at the same time…"

Civil Society in North Kivu appears to share some government officials’ belief that ADF-NALU—an insurgency of some 800 to 1,400 fighters of Ugandan origin but based in DRC since 1995—is behind the violence. FARDC, with support from MONUSCO, launched an offensive—code-named Operation Sokola. the Lingala word for "clean"—against the ADF in January 2014.

ADF-NALU itself has no spokesman or social media presence. The Ugandan government claims the organization is linked to al-Qaeda and Somalia's Shabab insurgency.

"It is really the terrorist group ADF because there is no other armed group operating in this part of the country between Kayinama and Mwalika. They recruited people in DRC, Uganda and Rwanda," said Teddy Kataliko, chairman of Civil Society in South Kivu. Kataliko said this explains why several witnesses told the parliamentary commission that the attackers were speaking in languages identified by survivors as Swahili, Kiganda and Kinyarwanda, which are spoken in DRC, Uganda and Rwanda respectively.

Kataliko also said the army had been infiltrated and that some soldiers were involved in racketeering and selling uniforms to the rebels. "There must be an investigation and an internal audit of the army to understand the extent of the complicity," he said.

From IRIN, Dec. 10