, GOMA, Dec 7 – Suspected Ugandan rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have killed 14 people with machetes and axes, authorities said Sunday, despite efforts by the army and UN peacekeepers to stop such massacres.
The overnight attack in the area of Beni in Oicha village in North Kivu province was confirmed by a military spokesman and a local official.
More than 200 people have been killed since October in a series of massacres in Beni and the surrounding area blamed on the Allied Democratic Forces and National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU).
The rebels have been terrorising the east of the DR Congo, which borders Uganda, for the last two decades.
Town chief Jean-Baptiste Kamabu, reached by telephone from the North Kivu capital Goma, said the assailants wielded machetes and axes.
He said two people were wounded and another two were abducted.
Celestin Ngeleka, spokesman of a military operation against armed groups in the region, confirmed the death toll of 14, which he said could rise.
Soldiers are still searching the area and could “find other cadavers”, he said.
Recent attacks in the area have followed a similar pattern, the assailants arriving at night armed with machetes and brutally massacring residents, including women and children.
An NGO based in Beni, Civil Society of North Kivu, claimed the death toll from the overnight attack was 32 and called on the Congolese army and UN peacekeepers to restore order to the region.
It said in a statement it was “extremely shocked by yet another massacre.”
Residents have repeatedly denounced what they see as passivity from DR Congo troops and UN peacekeepers in the face of the massacres.
Beni is an important commercial centre and a stronghold of the Nande community, whose leaders rallied behind a militia supported by Uganda during the second Congo war from 1998 to 2003.
The latest attack comes after Martin Kobler, head of the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, known as MONUSCO, said last week “we could reduce our presence” in the country next year if the government’s authority was restored.
Already a delegation from UN headquarters in New York “has come to see how MONUSCO could reduce its forces, because the security situation in many places is getting better,” Kobler said in an online chat session.
MONUSCO is one of the biggest peacekeeping missions in the world.
A Congolese army operation launched in January allowed the military to retake rebel strongholds in the region, but the operation was halted after the death of its commander in August. It was restarted in late November.
The ADF-NALU rebels, who oppose Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, have been present in eastern DR Congo for nearly two decades.
Believed to number around 400, they have hidden in the Ruwenzori mountains that straddle the border with Uganda since being driven out of their homeland by Museveni’s soldiers in 1995.