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Fighters enter eastern DRC city, surround prison

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Armed men from CODECO group demand release of jailed fellow fighters in Bunia city. 4 Sept 2020

Dozens of armed rebels have entered the city of Bunia in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in an apparent show of force in protest against their treatment during a continuing peace process and to demand the release of jailed fellow fighters.

Wearing white headbands to distinguish each other, the fighters from the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) armed group on Friday morning surrounded the prison to push for the release of their comrades.

“They are in front of the central prison and are demanding the release of their men,” Governor Jean Bamanisa told AFP news agency. “They are negotiating. We are trying to calm them.” 

Bamanisa said the men were from a faction of the CODECO which “unilaterally wants to end hostilities”.

Drawn largely from the Lendu ethnic group, CODECO is accused by the United Nations of widespread and systematic killings, beheadings, rape and other acts that may amount to war crimes.

In July the government sent several former rebel commanders, including one just released after more than a decade in prison in The Hague and the DRC for war crimes, to convince CODECO fighters to surrender.

Some elements of CODECO agreed to a unilateral ceasefire in August, although it remains unclear if that would stop the violence since the group split into several competing factions in March after the army killed its leader. READ MORE

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“We don’t know if it’s theatre or what in Ituri (province). The CODECO militiamen came with weapons in full view of everyone,” said Jean Bosco Lalo, president of a civil rights group in the province.

Army spokesman Jules Ngongo said the situation in Bunia was under control: “They are harmless, only asking that they be taken care of by the 36th military region and seek the release of their fellow prisoners.”

Videos circulating on social media showed Congolese soldiers holding back crowds of people as the fighters posed with guns and rocket launchers. No violence was reported.

Bamanisa’s deputy, Gracien de Saint-Nicolas, said: “We will not allow blood to be spilt in Bunia. The CODECO is Congolese and ready to give up arms but you are not facilitating the task for them to be reintegrated into the peace process.”

This is practically unbelievable. This came from the result of negotiating with terrorists. The Lendu militiamen of CODECO have been killing people for the last three years. The Lendu militiamen of CODECO killed tens of thousands of people (Majority Hema), many women and children rapped by the same people, they made so many people homeless, orphans and took away very many valuable properties including people’s life investment. Well, there are so many that they did, and at the end of the story the government of Dr. Congo negotiated with them and told them not to kill more people, they will finance them so that they could join a normal citizen’s lifestyle. In the process of the negotiation, they said that they want their fellow criminals free and the prison officer released them to avoid any form of trouble because they promised to shade blood if there would be any resistance from the government’s side. The leaders of the criminals have been set free, they were given a track to take them back to the bush with enough food provision.

If you lost your Dad, Mother and a brother/sister or any of these from what the Lendu Militiamen of CODECO, what would be your reaction from what we have just narrated?

This does not happen anywhere in the world and it has never happened anywhere before, but we are experiencing it in the northern East- Dr.Congo.

Musemeza W. Jm