Toll rises from North Kivu to Ituri
If confirmed, the latest toll of clashes underway for weeks in North Kivu released by the civil society of the strife-torn East province, on the border with Uganda and Rwanda, is high: around a hundred people, mainly civilians, were killed in Kitchanga, in the Masisi territory, some fifty wounded and several women were raped. In a reconstruction by local MISNA sources, who requested to remain anonymous, FARDC regular troops were responsible for the violence.
Angered for not receiving salaries and over the difficult conditions on the battle front in North Kivu, the troops apparently looted the area and opened fire indiscriminately against residents. The administrator of the Masisi territory, Marie-Claire Mangwene Mwavita, assured that after “the revolt and confusion caused by some undisciplined elements of the 812th regiment, calm has now returned in Kitchanga”.
Without providing any details on the motives of the soldiers or the toll of the unrest, Mwavita said she is attending the results of an investigation that is underway. Kitchanga was also theatre to violent clashes between regular troops and deserters who formed the March 23 Movement that previously controlled the area. The killings and looting were initially attributed to the ‘M23’ and other militias – including the Hutu rebels of the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) – that intervened in Kitchanga. The civil society of North Kivu already denounced the death of around a hundred people in various villages of the Masisi and Walikale territories, attributed to the FDLR rebels and Mayi-Mayi militias.
Meanwhile, news arrives from the neighbouring Ituri region, in the East Province (north-east), of the formation of a new coalition of armed groups. The local Radio Okapi reports that the Coalition of Armed Groups of Ituri (COGAI), headed by the dissident colonel Matata Banaloki (known as Cobra), includes the People’s Front for the sustainable development of Ituri, the Armed Force for the revolution and the Armed Forces for the integration of Ituri. The majority of the leaders of the groups active in Ituri are soldiers who deserted the armed forces: they demand the creation of a military region and removal of the local FARDC chief, Col. Fal Sikabwé. Officially, Kinshasa’s political and military authorities deny the existence of the COGAI. The civil society, concerned over possible new violence, is calling on the local administration and government to open dialogue with the militias.