Monday, November 3, 2014 1:45 pm
Families prepared Monday to bury their dead in the flashpoint town of Beni in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo after a massacre and violent riots, residents said.
Leaders of civil society and the governor of volatile North Kivu province, Julien Paluku, said the final death toll from Saturday night’s latest killings, blamed on rebels from neighbouring Uganda, was 11.
A previous toll of eight was released as hundreds of angry people turned out in the streets on Sunday and marched on the city hall, to be dispersed by armed soldiers and police firing shots in the air.
“It’s calm, people woke up to calm,” Paluku said Monday in the provincial capital Goma, 250 kilometres (155 miles) south of Beni, a town of more than 95,000 people in forest territory.
“The night was calm and business is gradually picking up,” confirmed Teddy Kataliko, head of a federation of local associations in Beni, in the wake of the latest attack attributed to rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces and National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU).
“Two soldiers were slain” during the raid, Paluku said. “The first (was killed) because he was caught on the scene by the rebels and the second tried to stop the rebels. Civilians were hacked to death with machetes.”
The latest killings followed at least 120 deaths blamed on the Ugandan rebels in the region since October 2, including 14 people massacred with machetes last week in the town of Kampi ya Chui, according to civic associations. Civilian victims include women and children, some of them decapitated.
The national army and soldiers of the large UN mission in the country, MONUSCO, are in pursuit of the mainly Muslim rebel forces, who were driven out of Uganda by the military in the late 1990s and have since hidden out in the Ruwenzori mountains straddling the border.
President Joseph Kabila briefly visited Beni on Friday and pledged to defeat ADF-NALU, asking for further assistance from MONUSCO troops, but unimpressed local residents outraged by repeated killings on Sunday partially wrecked a roundabout on which a Kabila statue stands.
Later Sunday, Beni’s mayor, Bwanakawa Nyonyi, imposed a curfew from 6:30 pm to 6:00 am (1630 to 0400 GMT). Governor Paluku said the measure would help “control the movements of the population because these people (the rebels) come and we don’t know how to tell rebels from civilians. That’s how they operate.”
Bands of men and women nevertheless gathered in different places and lit fires, aiming to take care of their own security, journalist Chirac Katalya said. Police came out to disperse these groups by firing in the air, as they had during the day.
Opposed to Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni but largely routed by his army, the ADF-NALU has taken to terrorising civilians in mountainous territory, killing and looting and forcibly enlisting people into its ranks. It raises funds by illegal trading in tropical timber.