Hundreds protest government inaction against violence in eastern Congo

by Reuters
Wednesday, 17 August 2016 13:29 GMT

Relatives and friends carry the body of Yvonne Masika killed during an attack by suspected ADF-NALU rebels for burial in Mbau village near Beni, in North Kivu province, October 21, 2014. REUTERS/Kenny Katombe

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Attacks in the region have killed more than 700 people since October 2014

By Aaron Ross

KINSHASA, Aug 17 (Reuters) - Hundreds of people marched on the town of Beni in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday to protest over government inaction against violent rebel groups in the region, witnesses said.

Around 50 people were killed by suspected Ugandan rebels on the outskirts of Beni on Saturday, the latest in a spate of attacks in the region that has killed more than 700 people since October 2014.

The protests on Wednesday added to tensions in Congo ahead of an election, scheduled for November, in which the opposition has called for President Joseph Kabila to step down after his allotted two terms.

Residents of Beni and surrounding towns chanted against the government and army outside the mayor's office, voicing frustration at bloodletting in a region once considered a government stronghold.

Residents of nearby Butembo and Oicha also marched to Beni to protest, Teddy Kataliko, president of the Civil Society of Beni Territory, told Reuters.

Police and soldiers broke up the crowd with tear gas and warning shots, witnesses said.

"When they wanted to enter the town of Beni, the police dispersed them with tear gas," Kataliko said of the protesters from Butembo.

It was not immediately possible to confirm reports of injuries or deaths, and a police spokesman said he did not yet have information on the situation.

A woman and a young girl were killed on Tuesday night about 40 km (25 miles) north of Beni, local army spokesman Mak Hazukay told Reuters.

The government has blamed all of the attacks on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan Islamist group of only a few hundred fighters that has operated in eastern Congo since the 1990s.

However, U.N. experts and independent analysts say other armed groups, including some Congolese soldiers, have also been involved in attacks on civilians.

The government says that it continues to try root out the ADF fighters through longstanding military operations, but that the ADF's guerrilla tactics make them difficult to counter. (Reporting By Aaron Ross, editing by Edward McAllister and Richard Balmforth)

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