Suspected militia fighters have decapitated 16 people in a new village massacre near Beni in the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, civil society sources said Friday.
Three more civilians were wounded in Beni town by an explosive device on Thursday night, an official source said, in a new tactic in a region beset by militia violence for decades.
The killings on Thursday in the Mbau region north of Beni have been blamed on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a militia group responsible for a string of massacres since the start of November.
“Sixteen decapitated bodies have been found in searches that started in the evening,” Jamal Moussa, spokesman for the network of civil society organisations in Mbau said.
The massacre targeted the small village of Mantumbi.
“The ADF terrorists attacked in daylight (on Thursday), first in the bush where people were in their fields, and then in the village,” Moussa said.
DR Congo forces launched operations against the ADF in the eastern region at the end of October. But in response, the ADF has carried out massacres, in an apparent bid to discourage civilians from helping the military.
At least 100 people have been killed since November 5 in attacks blamed on the ADF, an Islamist-rooted militia with origins in Uganda.
No military sources would officially confirm Thursday’s report, but the Congolese army and UN troops deployed to the vast country have announced joint operations against ADF forces in the Beni region.
Another civil society group, Lucha, reported a toll of at least nine people killed near Mbau.
The administrative chief of Rwenzori, one of the four districts of the town, Alois Mbwarara, said two passengers on a motorbike reportedly threw an explosive device which blew up in the market, wounding three people.
“The ADF, on the run from the Congolese army, now uses their stooges in the town for acts of sabotage,” he said.
The army is analysing debris to determine whether it was a homemade bomb or a hand grenade.”
The last time an explosive device was used in Beni was in 2007, the official added.
The Congolese army has discovered “a factory for large-scale production of homemade bombs” at a seized ADF camp, military spokesman General Leon Richard Kasonga said on Wednesday.
Militia Attack Congolese Villages, Kill 58
No fewer than 58 people have been killed in a militia attack on two villages in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The DR Congo Government, on Thursday, said the deceased were killed with knives and firearms.
Suspected members of Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan armed group operating in the eastern part DR Congo, were said to murdered 23 people in Irumu territory in southern Ituri on Tuesday, followed by 35 on Thursday.
Three chiefs are part of the dead.
Killings of civilians by the ADF militia has increased this year after the government launched a large-scale army campaign to wipe them out. As a result, the ADF abandoned its bases, split into smaller more mobile groups, and took revenge on civilians in an attempt to divert the army’s resources to protect villages.
Ituri province’s provincial interior minister, Adjio Gidi, attributed the attacks to the attacks to the ADF members who were “fleeing military pressure in [neighbouring] North Kivu province, namely in Beni.”
South Sudan Records Alarming Rates Of Child Marriages, Prostitution
Support Peace Development Initiative Organisation (SPIDO), Executive Director, Wodcan Lazarus, on Friday disclosed that South Sudan has recorded more than 1,500 child marriages in five months.
SPIDO, in its report, said the teenagers have either been married off or impregnated since April.
The report released by SPIDO found alarming rates of early child marriages, pregnancies and prostitution in the three Eastern, Central and Western Equatoria states respectively.
The report uncovers widespread incidents of sexual-related offences, mostly rape, attempted rape, sexual harassment and murder of children.
The organisation said it documented at least 1,535 cases of child marriages and teenage pregnancies in the Equatoria region since South Sudan shut down schools in mid-March as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Western Equatoria takes the lead in cases of teenage marriage and pregnancies, with 1,182 cases followed by Eastern Equatoria with 318 cases, and Central Equatoria with 35 cases respectively.
“In this short period, over 1,500 girls have been married off in three regions. This tells that the situation could be worse in other regions where child marriage was rampant before the COVID-19 lockdown,” Lazarus said.
South Sudan’s legal age of marriage is 18, but the country has long before now grappled with high rates of early and forced marriages.
The civil society group warned that continued closure of schools and a biting economic crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis could lead to more child marriages.
“Sustenance could be making parents force their girls into marriages with the hope of getting dowry because in many South Sudanese cultures, girls are looked at as sources of wealth,” Lazarus said.
The report calls for urgent measures to prevent and mitigate child abuses.
It also called for the provision of medical care for child abuse survivors and increased advocacy for human rights.
The report further recommends the establishment of a juvenile justice legal aid scheme in the east African country.
Former CAR Transitional Leader, Samba-Panza, Declares For President
A former Acting President of the Central Africa Republic (CAR), Catherine Samba-Panza, has said she will run in the December 27 Presidential elections in the country.
Samba-Panza led the country between 2014 and 2016 after a political crisis in 2012-2013 said she took the decision to run against President Faustin Archange Touadera following encouragements from many people
“In the face of increased socio-political tension and the degrading security in the country, many appealed from all sides of the political spectrum, asking me to run,” 64-year-old Samba-Panza said in a speech to supporters in the capital.
“I have proven that I wasn’t infected by the virus of power by keeping the constitutional commitment not to run in 2016.”
Samba-Panza, 64, run against Touadera, who was elected in 2016, and is expected to seek a second term in the election.
Touadera has not yet confirmed he will run.
Another politician who has confirmed interest in ruling the nation of 4.6 million people is former president Francois Bozize who was overthrown in a 2013 rebellion by a coalition of mainly Muslim rebels from the north, plunging the majority Christian nation into a violent civil war.
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