DRC: Mutinous soldiers add to civilian fear in east

KINSHASA, 28 August 2009 (IRIN) – A mutiny over pay, by a section of the army in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Uvira territory, is restricting population movement and heightening fear, say officials.

Meanwhile, farther north, an escalation in attacks by Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels has prompted large-scale displacement.

The Congolese army (FARDC) is in Uvira, South Kivu Province, in an operation to oust Rwandan Hutu FDLR [Forces démocratiques pour la libération du Rwanda] militia there.

“It [the mutiny] was [caused by] some FARDC soldiers who were demanding their four-month salary arrears,” Victor Chomachoma, the Uvira territory administrator, said.

“[They] were firing into the air the whole day [and] barricaded roads, preventing all [pedestrian and vehicle] movement on the Uvira-Kamanyola axis.” The road goes to Bukavu, the main town in the province.

Chomachoma said the mutiny had forced the population to stay in their homes on 26 August.

Confirming the mutiny, the spokesman for the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC), Lt. Col Jean-Paul Dietrich, said about 50 FARDC soldiers were involved.

The two said military authorities had convinced the mutineers to remove the blockades even if they had not been paid.

The mutiny has led to an increase in fear among residents already affected by ongoing anti-FDLR military operations.

Residents had to endure artillery fire on the night of 26 August following an FDLR attack on the village of Sange, 15km north of Uvira, he said.

The village of Nyakabere was also under fire on 25 August in an attack lasting 30 minutes, said Dietrich, adding that “two FARDC soldiers were injured and three FDLR militia killed. [The dead] were carried away by their fleeing colleagues.”

“Three civilians, among them two girls, suffered bullet injuries. [Some] 53 houses were burnt by the FDLR, who also took away goats, sheep and cows,” Chomachoma said.


Photo: Voxcom/IRIN
Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, members (file photo): At least 125,000 people have been displaced in the past three weeks alone by LRA attacks in Haut Uele, Orientale Province

Farther north in Orientale Province, at least 125,000 people have been displaced in the past three weeks alone by LRA attacks in the district of Haut Uele, says the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

“A staggering 540,000 Congolese have been uprooted in Orientale by deadly LRA assaults since September 2008,” UNHCR said in a 28 August statement.

During the same period, the rebels have reportedly killed some 1,270 people and abducted 655 children.

The attacks have caused about 8,000 Congolese to flee to neighbouring Southern Sudan and the Central African Republic. Of these, 6,500 are in the Western Equatoria region of Southern Sudan, where recent LRA attacks  in the area of Ezo forced UN staff to evacuate.

Humanitarian agencies estimate that at least two million people have been displaced by anti-FDLR operations and FDLR counter-attacks since January in eastern DRC. This figure surpasses that during the 2006 civil war.

Recently, the DRC government said it would continue military operations against Rwandan militias in the eastern provinces until they were dislodged from Congolese soil.

[original]

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