No less than 15 people have been killed in two deadly attacks by militia groups in Ituri, a region under siege in the north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), local sources said on Monday.
Militiamen from the armed group Cooperative for the Development of Congo (Codeco) have been accused of being behind the recent attacks. “When these Codeco militiamen entered here in Mabanga, there were no FARDC soldiers”, an eyewitness told reporters.
The Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Forces armées de la république démocratique du Congo [FARDC]) is the state organization responsible for defending the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
CODECO Militia Explained
CODECO is a coalition of militia founded in the 1970s as a religious and agriculturalists sect in Ituri, where it claims to defend members of the Lendu tribe against the DRC army and the pastoralist Hema tribe. The group actively participated in the so-called Ituri War, which took place between 1999 and 2003.
At the end of the war, the group did not completely dissolve and stockpiled the weapons used during this conflict in several communities. In 2018, CODECO started engaging in armed attacks again to defend the Lendu population against the Hema.
Currently led by Justin Ngudjolo, it uses the Wago forest as a training base. The total number of its members amounts to approximately 2,350 fighters.
The steady increase of armed violence by the CODECO pushed the FARDC to launch an attack on their bastions in the Mungwalu region in Djugu territory of Ituri province. The air raid of three zones controlled by the CODECO between Dec. 23 and 26, 2021, led to the death of at least 31 rebels
The FARDC has launched no less than four attacks on the CODECO militia since 2019, with the deadliest being In March 2019 when 309 CODECO militants were reportedly killed during the Storm of Ituri 2 operation launched by the FARDC in Djugu and Mahagi and part of Irumu.
Local civil society groups say over 2000 people have been killed in the area since a surge in inter-communal violence in 2017, while at least 40,000 have been displaced.