Wave of violence in eastern DRC

Hutu militias have kidnapped at least 15 people in remote villages in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in the past four days, demanding ransoms in a growing wave of militia violence, a United Nations spokesperson said on Wednesday.

The militias have increased their looting and kidnapping in remote, small communities as a stepped-up Congolese military presence in the east pressures them out of larger cities and towns, said Eliana Naaba, UN spokesperson in the eastern border town of Bukavu.

The most recent kidnappings took place on Saturday and Sunday in the villages of Izege, Mwirama and Kalombo, all near Bukavu, Naaba said.

In Izege “seven people were kidnapped, most of them women and children,” said Naaba.

The kidnappers are demanding ransoms of between $10 and $30, she added. So far none of the ransoms have been paid.

Kidnappings in the area have increased since early November, when the national Congolese army deployed to the area, in a bid to take control of the territory from Rwandan Hutu and Congolese militias.

Naaba said the kidnappings were being carried out either by an ethnic Hutu militia linked to the 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda, or by one of its violent break-away groups.

Rwandan Hutu militias fled across the border into the eastern DRC in 1994 after carrying out the genocide of more than a half-million minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda.

Rwanda twice invaded the DRC, in 1994 and 1998, on the grounds of chasing down the militias. The second invasion sparked a five-year, six-nation war in the DRC that killed more than three million Congolese.

Foreign armies officially withdrew under peace deals by 2002, and the DRC’s army, backed by a more than 11 000-strong UN force, is moving to assert control in the east for the first time.

Rwanda last month threatened to invade again, complaining a five-month-old UN-led disarmament effort so far had failed to neutralise the Hutu militias.
- Sapa-AP

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