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Curfew slapped on eastern DR Congo towns after deadly clashes

Image grab taken from AFPTV footage on August 18, 2017 shows police trying to contain a protest on August 17 in the town of Beni, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) © AFP / Charly Kasereka

Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo, Aug 18 – Authorities slapped a dawn-to-dusk curfew on two towns in northeast DR Congo Thursday, following deadly clashes over the government’s failure to prevent repeated civilian massacres.

Interior Minister Evariste Boshab announced the 7:00 pm to 6:00 am curfew on Butembo as well as Beni were he flew into following the massacre of 51 civilians in the town last weekend.

The slaying in which victims were the latest in a string of massacres that has left more than 700 dead since 2014.

The gruesome Saturday night killings prompted an angry march by hundreds of people from Butembo to Beni on Wednesday, which ended in tear gas, gunfire and clashes, leaving a policeman and a protester dead.

In a separate incident, a woman was beaten to death with stones and sticks and her body set alight on suspicion of being a member of the rebel group believed to be behind the civilian massacres.

– ‘What did he come for?’ –

The violence added to the existing tension in Democratic Republic of Congo, where fears are mounting that President Joseph Kabila plans to hold on to power after his second mandate expires in December.

The United States has warned of the threat of more violence in the mineral-rich nation of 70 million people.

In Beni on Wednesday, an effigy of Kabila was burned in the town’s main market, as were flags of Kabila’s ruling People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD).

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The deadly protests came a day after Prime Minister Augustin Matata was booed by hundreds outside Beni’s town hall, after he visited the massacre site.

“What did he come for? We don’t need humanitarian aid, but peace,” said Germain Katembo, a survivor of the massacre who lost three members of his family.

The killings have been blamed by the government on the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a partly Islamist armed group of Ugandan origin.

The group has been present in DR Congo for more than two decades and is accused of a litany of human rights abuses.

The ADF, opposed to Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, is thought to be heavily involved with criminal networks funded by kidnappings, smuggling and logging.

But a report published in March by the Congo Research Group at New York University, which probed the massacres around Beni, claimed that soldiers from the regular army had also participated in the killings.


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