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DRC Sees 2nd Day of Protests Against Massacres

People argue as a woman is transported to the local hospital in Beni on August 15, 2016 during scenes of tension following a wave of unrest and violence in the region. At least 42 civilians have been killed in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a local official said on August 14, in what the government described as a massacre in revenge for military operations in the area.

Demonstrators took to the streets in eastern DRC for a second day to protest the massacre of at least 50 people in Beni territory during the weekend. Three people died when a demonstration turned violent Wednesday in Beni town, according to the United Nations.

This latest round of protests in eastern Congo’s North Kivu province follows the killing of at least 50 people in a village on the outskirts of Beni last Saturday by assailants suspected to belong to the ADF rebel movement.

The U.N. Mission in Congo reported the killers were disguised as park rangers and detained people returning from their fields before murdering them.

The ADF originated as an Ugandan rebel movement, but over the years has recruited many Congolese. It is blamed for the massacre of at least 700 people in Beni territory since late 2014, civil society activists say as many as 1,200 people have been killed.

The United Nations says the Beni protest led to the deaths of a policeman, a demonstrator and a third person lynched by a mob, and that a soldier and several civilians were wounded.

A peaceful demonstration was held Thursday in the provincial capital Goma.

Activist Diego Mutima addressed the crowd of several hundred people. He called for the truth to be established as to who instigated and carried out the massacres in Beni. Mutima also demanded military and judicial action to bring them to justice, whatever their rank and status.

Several reports have raised questions about the role of high ranking officers in Beni’s troubles, but these allegations have not been tested in court.

FILE - Democratic Republic of the Congo President Joseph Kabila.
FILE - Democratic Republic of the Congo President Joseph Kabila.

The demonstration in Goma quickly turned political with opposition party supporters chanting “he is on the way out" a reference to the end of DRC president Joseph Kabila’s two-term mandate in December.

Speaking to Congolese media Wednesday, North Kivu province vice governor Feller Lutahichirwa accused activists and opposition members of exploiting the massacres to stir up more trouble.

He says those who have been calling on the people to demonstrate are practically aligned with the terrorists, and there might have been ADF terrorists among the demonstrators.

Opposition lawmaker Juvenal Munubo rejected the accusation against opposition parties.

It is not enough to make allegations, he says, they have to be backed up with proof, and he says the vice governor has not been able to say which opposition party or group was behind the disturbances.

A civil society organizer Thomas d’Aquin Mwiti told VOA a public trial of suspected ADF members will be held next week in Beni.