A local official has blamed the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) for the recent attack on the villages of Boga and Tchabi in the eastern Ituri region, killing at least 50 people.
Military spokesman Jules Ngongo told news agencies that ADF fighters attacked the villages in two overnight ambushes.
The two villages lie on the border between North Kivu and Ituri provinces in an area where the ADF is believed to be active.
One community leader said children and the elderly were among the victims.
Meanwhile, the DRC army has given a slightly higher provisional toll of 53 after a meeting of security forces in Bunia, the capital of Ituri province.
Local MP Gracien Iracan said at least 60 people were killed.
“Seven trucks arrived to remove the victims – it’s a dramatic situation,” Iracan told the AFP news agency. “They’re still finding bodies, so the toll is likely to grow. Many wounded people are still hiding in the bushes.”
History Of The Crisis In Eastern DRC
The conflict in North and South Kivu began in 1996 in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide. The conflict involves numerous armed actors, including the DRC Military, foreign rebel groups such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda and Allied Defence Forces of Uganda and more than 100 local armed groups. An estimated 122 armed groups of varying sizes operate in the eastern DRC.
Due to this ongoing fighting, DRC is currently home to the largest UN peacekeeping force in the world, consisting of 21,000 people.
The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group formed in neighbouring Uganda more than 20 years ago, is believed to be responsible for the bloodshed in the past few months.
According to the UN figures, the ADF has committed a spate of brutal reprisal attacks on civilians since the army began operations against it in late 2019, killing about 850 people last year.
The violence has fueled a humanitarian crisis with more than 1.6 million people displaced in Ituri out of a total population of 5.7 million people, UNICEF said in April. Some 2.8 million people there require some form of emergency assistance, it said.
Since the beginning of the year, over 300 people have reportedly also died in the worsening crisis.
According to Mercy Corps, more than 2 million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition. One in 10 women and girls experienced sexual violence in 2016.
Women and children have been mostly affected by the crisis as families are forced to flee their homes to seek shelter in the cities. Cities in eastern Congo, like Goma and Bukavu, have been experiencing an influx of people fleeing violence from the more rural areas.
President Felix Tshisekedi, the president of DRC has instructed the country’s army to take charge of the two regions for a month.
Tshisekedi declared a “state of siege” for the first time, giving soldiers broad powers to conduct searches, make arrests and ban public gatherings.
Although some welcome the intervention, some rights groups are worried the military will abuse its powers.