Stepped-up militia activity poses threats in DRCongo: UN

Report
from Agence France-Presse
Published on 30 Jan 2013

01/30/2013 19:06 GMT - DRCONGO-REBELS-ATTACK-REFUGEES - World News (EAA) - AFP

KINSHASA, Jan 30, 2013 (AFP) - A UN mission on Wednesday warned of heightened security threats in Katanga province, in the south-east of Democratic Republic of Congo, as military forces have been unable to quell resurging activity by local militia groups.

The security situation "is progressively deteriorating, particularly in the Pweto territory," Prosper Basse, a military spokesman for the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in DR Congo, told a weekly press conference.

Pweto is located some 300 kilometres (185 miles) north of Lubumbashi, by the Zambian border.

Basse said two local militia groups, Mai-Mai Gedeon and Kata-Katanga, have become "more active" lately, but noted that after the groups suffered severe losses in clashes with the army between January 18 and January 28, "the security situation in the region remains under government troop control."

Local authorities claim Kanshe Mukumkuma, the second in command of Mai-Mai Gedeon, was killed during the clashes.

In a statement on Friday, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said thousands of civilians have fled the combat zones and have sought refuge in the bush.

Christine Slagt, an MSF project coordinator, warned that "civilians risk getting caught up in the fighting and being confused with the combatants."

She added that some militias have also stopped people from leaving the area.

In mid-January, the Congolese Association for Access to Justice (CAAJ) called on the army to "urgently neutralise" the Mai-Mai Gedeon militia, led by Gedeon Kyungu Mutanga.

In 2009, a military court sentenced Mutanga to death for "war crimes, crimes against humanity, insurrection and terrorism" committed in Katanga between 2003 and 2006. He then fled prison in a raid by masked gunmen that also allowed nearly 1,000 other inmates to escape.

The Kata-Katanga militia is fighting for Katanga's independence. Since the independence of DR Congo in 1960, the province has regularly been shaken by separatist tendencies.

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