The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) is on alert following Tuesday’s attack by Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in eastern DR Congo near Uganda’s western border, which saw over 20 people killed.
According to the UN radio Okapi, seven people were killed in the city of Beni and between three and 14 others near Oicha, 30km away following the Tuesday raid by ADF.
Congolese military officials who spoke to radio Okapi confirmed the raid which, according to independent sources, now brings the death toll to at least 60 people since October 30 when ADF launched fresh offenses.
Over the weekend, 14 other people were killed in Beni by ADF. The latest attacks, UN officials say, have sparked an exodus in the Beni district of Boikene and in the Mavete district of Oichi.
Protests against poor security have also erupted and members of the UN peacekeeping force, MONUSCO, have been advised not to go out on the streets of Beni.
The killings, which are mainly targeting people in the Beni region, North Kivu province, have been described by DR Congo local authorities as acts of “revenge” by ADF rebels following recent “large-scale operations” against armed militias in DR Congo.
Beni administrator Donat Kibwana said recently the attackers used machetes and knives. They were believed to have gone on to loot shops and homes.
On October 30, the DR Congo government launched a massive offensive against militia groups, including shelling and troop deployments, aimed at ridding the area of armed groups.
But the civilian death toll in ADF attacks has been rising and residents have accused the army of focusing their efforts on the wrong areas.
“It is a complicated situation because the population is the target of ADF revenge attacks against army operations,” Teddy Kataliko, the president of the Beni Civil Society, said.
The UPDF spokesperson, Brig. Richard Karemire said the army is co-operating with DR Congo forces as the onslaught against the ADF continues to take shape.
“UPDF will continue securing the border against infiltration by any undesirable elements while also engaging DR Congo on bilateral co-operation against ADF terrorists,” Karemire said.
The new offensive comes weeks after five Great Lakes countries— DR Congo, Burundi, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda — agreed during a meeting in Goma, to combine their military operations in the region.
The Beni region, in North Kivu Province which borders Uganda and Rwanda, has been particularly affected by militia violence. An Islamist-rooted Ugandan armed group, the ADF, has targeted Beni, killing hundreds of civilians over the last five years.
The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) are also active in the region.