Who’s be­hind the mas­sacres in DR Congo’s Beni re­gion?

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The of­fi­cial ex­pla­na­tion for a twoyear wave of mas­sacres in a restive cor­ner of DR Congo cen­ters on a shad­owy rebel group ac­cused of hav­ing ties to the global ji­hadist un­der­ground. But some ba­sic de­tails about the al­leged killers of more than 700 vic­tims the lat­est over the Christ­mas week­end-haven’t quite con­vinced ob­servers and ex­perts.

The truth, they say, is more com­pli­cated and may lead all the way to the halls of power in the vast, min­eral-rich and chron­i­cally un­sta­ble cen­tral African na­tion. UN ex­perts, re­fer­ring to the claimed ji­hadist links in past re­ports, have sim­ply stated: “There is no proof of this al­le­ga­tion.” But that has not stopped the Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo’s lead­er­ship and the UN peace­keep­ing mis­sion MONUSCO from blam­ing the blood­bath around the town of Beni, in the coun­try’s strife-torn north­east, on the Al­lied Demo­cratic Forces (ADF). Se­crecy shrouds the group, which is dom­i­nated by hard­line Ugan­dan Mus­lims who were ini­tially fo­cused on over­throw­ing Uganda’s Pres­i­dent Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni. The group went on to ab­sorb other rebel fac­tions into its ranks and started car­ry­ing out at­tacks in 1995. Grad­u­ally pushed west­wards by the Ugan­dan army, the ADF re­lo­cated most of its ac­tiv­i­ties to DR Congo. When the Beni mas­sacres started in Oc­to­ber 2014, with most of the vic­tims hacked to death, the ADF was quickly branded the cul­prit by both Con­golese au­thor­i­ties and MONUSCO. More than two years on, the gov­ern­ment and the UN have been un­able to pro­tect civil­ians from the at­tacks, and the ADF re­mains the only of­fi­cial ex­pla­na­tion-with Kin­shasa in­sist­ing on a ji­hadist link to the killings.

Army troops in­volved?

Many ADF re­cruits-who were drawn this year from Tan­za­nia, Bu­rundi, Kenya and as far as So­ma­lia-were not hard­core ide­o­logues but young Mus­lims lured by the promise of go­ing to study in Saudi Ara­bia, an in­tel­li­gence agent and civil so­ci­ety source told AFP. Mean­while, the ADF has not claimed any of the Beni mas­sacres, and no ex­perts work­ing on DR Congo have found a link be­tween the group and the global ji­hadist un­der­ground. “It’s para­dox­i­cal,” a civil so­ci­ety source in Beni told AFP, point­ing to groups like Is­lamic State’s claims of vi­o­lence com­mit­ted in its name.

Pin­ning the blame on ji­hadists “seems too sim­plis­tic”, he said on con­di­tion of anonymity fear­ing for his safety, like most Con­golese who spoke to AFP. Oth­ers have gone fur­ther, al­leg­ing that gov­ern­ment agents have a role in the killing. A group run by US re­searcher Jason Stearns pub­lished a re­port in March claim­ing sev­eral dis­tinct groups “ap­pear to be in­volved in the mas­sacres”, in­clud­ing sol­diers from the reg­u­lar army.

It said mem­bers of the Con­golese army, for­mer rebels from the RCD-K/ML group-who held the area dur­ing the 1998-2003 Sec­ond Congo War-and lo­cal mili­tias were all in­volved in the mass killings. — AFP

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