On Wednesday, the United Nations revealed that peacekeepers discovered mass graves in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, following a series of attacks blamed on a local militia.
Peacekeepers made the discoveries while patrolling the troubled Ituri province following violent attacks by suspected CODECO militants.
“Our colleagues there report that mass graves containing the bodies of 42 civilians, including 12 women and six children have been discovered in the village of Nyamamba,” said UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq.
The graves are located in Ituri province, where Haq said there has been a “significant deterioration of the security situation in Djugu and Mahagi territories.”
Haq said since December, the U.N. peacekeeping mission has said about 195 civilians have been killed and 84 people abducted in incidents linked to two armed groups, CODECO and Zaire.
CODECO is a loose association of various Lendu militia groups operating within the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The name is an abbreviation of the group’s lesser-known full name, the Cooperative for Development of the Congo, sometimes also styled the Congo Economic Development Cooperative.
Haq called for a probe that would establish whether the mass graves and the attacks are linked.
“Monusco is supporting the Congolese judicial system to investigate the attacks and calls for the perpetrators to be brought to justice,” Haq said, referring to the UN regional peacekeeping operation.
The Lendu and Hema communities have a longstanding feud that led to thousands of deaths between 1999 and 2003 before an intervention by a European peacekeeping force.
Violence resumed in 2017, blamed on the emergence of the CODECO. The Zaire militia says it represents the Hema community.
The U.N. says over 1.5 million people have been displaced in Ituri, and the attacks have hampered humanitarian efforts.