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Residents Protest Prolonged Military Occupation In Ituri And North Kivu, DR Congo

The DR Congo parliament recently extended the military operation —State of Siege— in its troubled regions, leading to protests from exhausted citizens who have declared some towns as ‘ghost towns.’

Four days into the 22nd extension of the state of siege in the Democratic Republic of Congo provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, the towns: Kirumba in Lubero territory; Butembo; and Oicha in Beni territory, were paralysed on Monday, April 25, as residents declared ‘ghost towns’ calling for the lifting of the state of siege in the two provinces.

The latest extension of the state of siege which will last for 15 days from April 21, 2022 to May 5, 2022 was voted into law by the DR Congo National Assembly on April 18, 2022.

The ‘ghost towns’ which were called by the Veranda Mutsanga pressure group brought the three towns to a standstill with all business activities suspended.

Only a few petrol stations served fuel to the few individuals who dared go out in their vehicles.

In Butembo; shops, banks, and schools remained closed. Same was observed in the neighbourhoods of Furu, Mutsanga, Malera, and Nziapanda, while clashes were reported between the police and some restive youths resulting in the arrest of  10 young activists.

The youths erected barricades towards Mususa-Kyambogo, blocking traffic at the entrance to Butembo and Goma. Sporadic gunfire was heard in some other quarters before midday but no casualties were reported.

In Kirumba, a rural council situated more than 150 km to the south of Butembo, youths who are members of the local section of Veranda Mutsanga blocked the streets and marched from Kirumba to Kayna condemning the state of siege and forcing businesses to close.

Meanwhile, in Beni town, the call for demonstrations was not respected as normal activities were conducted in several quarters including: Matonge, Tamende, and Kalinda, which are the main quarters of the town.

Police were stationed in strategic corners of Beni town to nip in the bud any attempts to demonstrate.

However, in Beni territory as a whole, activities were disrupted in Oicha where more than 10 civilians were recently massacred. Youths demonstrated in the Pakanza and Masosi quarters and forced schools to send teachers and students home.

Some arrests were made in Oicha but the police were yet to issue any statement about the arrests.

By midday, an uneasy calm had returned to some parts of the three towns but normal activities were yet to resume.

According to Issa Balume, one of the leaders of Veranda Mutsanga, “the Congolese authorities must understand this physical manifestations by the inhabitants who no longer want the state of siege”.

“The state of siege is an ineffective measure. Since it was declared, the massacre of civilians has increased. In our report, we documented over 5,000 deaths of civilians killed since the imposition of the state of siege in North Kivu and neighbouring Ituri.

“By observing these ‘ghost towns’, we want to say to the government that there is no reason to maintain the state of siege. 

“We also want to support our parliamentarians from North Kivu and Ituri who decided to boycott the plenary session dedicated to the adoption of the extension of the state of siege but received no solidarity on the part of the parliamentarians from other provinces of the country,” Balume said.

“We are saying to the nation that the decision by the parliamentarians of North Kivu and Ituri is a popular expression. The authorities must not lead against the wishes of the people because it would be a war against democracy.”

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Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian investigative journalist and traditional ruler. He writes for international media and has participated in several transnational investigations. Etahoben won the first-ever Cameroon Investigative Journalist Award in 1992. He serves as a member of a number of international investigative journalism professional bodies including the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). He is HumAngle's Francophone and Central Africa editor.

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