Congo is deploying police and soldiers to stamp out a new armed uprising blamed for killing dozens of police in an attack in the country’s isolated northern border region last week, a government spokesperson said.
Armed men killed 47 policemen sent to quell ethnic clashes between two villages in Equateur province last week, United Nations-supported Radio Okapi reported.
Information Minister Lambert Mende said security forces were being sent to the area.
“They will suppress anyone found with a weapon. They will arrest those who murdered our policemen. The operations have started,” he said.
Residents from the neighbouring villages of Enyele and Monzaya, representing two different ethnic groups, have been involved in feuding over fishing rights.
Nearly 1000 civilians have crossed the border into neighbouring Congo Republic to escape the violence, a government official said on Congo Republic state radio.
“The nationals of the DRC, nearly a thousand, including women and children, arrived in the town of Dongou where we have received and begun to bring them assistance, including some among them who are injured,” he said.
The clashes are not linked to simmering fighting in Congo’s eastern borderlands, where the army, backed by thousands of UN peacekeepers, is attempting to stamp out local, Rwandan and Ugandan rebels who roam the mineral-rich regions.
The United Nations said it was suspending support for some Congo army units it says it believes deliberately killed civilians in the east.
Congo’s government said it was concerned the uprising in the north was growing.
“Today, this group, which was composed in all of around 50 young people with knives and machetes, has grown to several hundred armed with machine guns, AK-47s, and automatic weapons,” Mende said.
The government of Congo is struggling to re-establish state control over the vast central African nation following a 1998-2003 war and humanitarian disaster which have killed an estimated 5.4 million people.
Pic: DRC Congo policemen