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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

DRC: Massacres persist in Ituri, ministerial mission to be dispatched

NAIROBI, 31 July 2003 (IRIN) - Six people were stoned to death on Wednesday by angry residents of Bunia, the main town of the troubled Ituri District of northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the UN mission in the country, known as MONUC, reported.

"The Red Cross recovered the bodies of five men of Lendu ethnicity, and the body of one woman of Nande ethnicity," Leocadio Salmeron, the MONUC spokesman, said.

He added, "While the precise reason for these stonings remains unknown, it could be because of their ethnicity."

Economically-driven ethnic strife in natural resource-rich Ituri between Hema and Lendu militias caused between 200,000 and 350,000 people to flee when fighting worsened in May, humanitarian sources have reported.

The latest killings follows a stream of recent reports from NGOs and local residents regarding massacres in the towns of Fataki, Nizi and Drodro during fighting between the Union des patriotes congolais (UPC), a predominantly Hema militia, and the Front des resistants pour la protection de l'Ituri (FRPI), a predominantly Lendu militia.

UPC Secretary-General John Tinanzabo has accused Lendu combatants of the massacre of Hema populations, while Lendu community representatives have accused Hema combatants of mass killings of Lendus.

"You cannot talk about massacres having been carried out by Lendus, as it was a question of Lendu combatants of the FRPI fighting against those of the UPC," Labu Mbuba, a Lendu community representative, said in Kinshasa on Wednesday following a recent visit to Ituri.

"There have been victims on both sides, as well as among the civilian population," he added.

Mbuba said arms continued to circulate freely in Ituri, as well as in Bunia, where a 1,500-strong EU-led multinational peace enforcement mission has banned the carrying of weapons publicly.

Meanwhile, President Joseph Kabila and his four vice-presidents have decided to send to Bunia three ministers of the newly installed transitional government, in an effort to calm tensions, according to a communique issued in Kinshasa on Wednesday. Interior, foreign and defence ministers Theophile Mbemba Fundu, Antoine Ghonda Mangalibi and Jean-Pierre Ondekane are to "carry a message of peace and reconciliation”, the communiqué said, “and to demonstrate the determination of the government to bring the peace process to every corner of the country".

Due to prevailing insecurity, MONUC has been unable to deploy outside Bunia, while the EU-led mission sent to reinforce MONUC until 1 September is not mandated to act outside of the town.

However, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted on Monday a resolution giving MONUC a stronger mandate and increasing its authorised strength from 8,700 to 10,800 troops. The council also extended the mission's mandate for another year, until 30 July 2004.

In a statement from its New York headquarters, the UN said that in adopting Resolution 1493, the 15-member council also instituted a 12-months arms embargo against foreign and Congolese armed groups in the east of the country.

The move was aimed at preventing "the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer" of arms to armed groups and militias operating in North and South Kivu and in Ituri, areas that have been hit by heavy fighting in recent months.

Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict



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