At least 35 dead in attack by militiamen on a gold mine in Ituri

The results of the attack on an artisanal gold mine in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo are particularly dramatic. At least 35 people were killed in Ituri on Sunday by militiamen from the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (Codeco).

The members of “Codeco killed in the gold mine “Camp Blanquette”. There are 29 bodies brought back to the city of Pluto. Six charred bodies were buried on the spot,” said Jean-Pierre Bikilisende, mayor of the rural commune of Mungwalu. “A 4-month-old baby and a woman” are among the dead. Above all, “this assessment is provisional, since there are other civilians killed whose bodies were thrown into gold panning holes and several other civilians are missing. The search continues.”

At least 50 dead according to another source

“There are also several wounded, including nine seriously, admitted to the general hospital of Mungwalu”, declared, for his part, Chérubin Kukundila, one of the leaders of the civil society of Mungwalu, estimating that “there has at least 50 people killed”. According to him, during this attack, the Codeco militiamen looted shops, took away the production of gold miners and burned down houses, making this place uninhabitable.

The province of Ituri is rich in gold and its basement is also full of oil. The “Camp Blanquette” gold mine is located in the forest more than 7 km from Mungwalu in the territory of Djugu, stronghold of the Codeco armed group. In this area, the authorities have prohibited the military from approaching artisanally mined mines. The nearest military position is thus located 8 km from the place where the massacre took place.

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The Codeco militia is an armed group structured around a religious sect. It claims to defend members of the Lendu community against the rival Hema community and against security forces, and is considered one of the deadliest groups in eastern Congo.

The region under siege for a year

Ituri has plunged back into a cycle of violence since the end of 2017 with the advent of this militia. A previous conflict between community militias caused thousands of deaths between 1999 and 2003, until the intervention of a European force, Operation Artemis, under French command. This time the rival Hema community has not reconstituted militias, relying on the authority of the State, however failing.

Ituri and the neighboring province of North Kivu have also been under a state of siege since May 6, 2021, a measure that has given full powers to army and police officers to manage the administration and carry out the war against the hundred or so armed groups that have been raging in eastern Congo for more than a quarter of a century. But, after a year of state of siege, the authorities have not managed to put an end to the massacres of civilians.

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