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Militia in eastern DRCongo agrees to stop attacks

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An armed group in the eastern DR Congo has agreed to President Felix Tshisekedi’s appeal to suspend attacks on its ethnic rivals, the militia and government said Sunday.

UN officials have blamed massacres they say are akin to “crimes against humanity” on the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO), which draws its members from the mainly farming Lendu people who have historically clashed with Hema traders and herders.

“We are stopping the acts of violence as the head of state is asking,” CODECO spokesman Basa Zukpa told AFP.

“We are ready to seize his outstretched hand. That’s why we are telling our units to respect this process, to be calm.”

It was not clear when the ceasefire was agreed.

CODECO was most recently blamed for killing 19 civilians in attacks on August 9 on three villages in the troubled eastern province of Ituri.

The ceasefire was signed through the mediation of a group of former warlords in Ituri, who were sent by Tshisekedi to convince CODECO to stop its attacks.

“Since the ceasefire was signed, CODECO’s acts of violence have decreased,” said Lieutenant Jules Ngongo, spokesman for the national army in the region.

The army is continuing to “follow closely developments on the ground as a precaution,” Ngongo said. “We are not yet at zero acts of violence from the CODECO side.”

Since December 2017, violence in Ituri has claimed nearly 1,000 lives and displaced half a million people, according to an International Crisis Group report last month.

The violence escalated after the army launched a crackdown on armed groups in October.

UN human rights investigators in June said at least 636 people had died since the start of the year.

Attacks spread into new areas after CODECO splintered following the killing of its main leader Ngudjolo Duduko Justin in March, they said.

The bloodshed in Ituri is part of a patchwork of problems engendered by armed groups in eastern DR Congo — the legacy of two wars in the 1990s.

The Lendu and Hema communities were embroiled in a bloody conflict between 1999-2003 which led to the European Union’s first foreign military mission, the short-term Operation Artemis.


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