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100 Christians dead this month in mass killings in eastern DRC

by Tola Mbakwe

Islamic extremists in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have killed at least 100 Christians in the east of the country this month. 

Terror group Alliance for Democratic Forces (ADF) are targeting people in the Ituri and North Kivu Provinces. 

Persecution charity Open Doors has called it a “neglected tragedy”.

Illia Djadi, Open Doors' senior analyst for freedom of religion or belief in Sub-Saharan Africa warned that Christians, who make up 95 per cent of the population, are being slaughtered daily. 

“What is happening in eastern DRC, the killing of innocent civilians on an almost daily basis, is a neglected tragedy,” he said. 

“Christian communities are being attacked by an Islamist extremist group with a clear expansionist agenda. 

“This is remarkably similar to what groups like Boko Haram are doing in northeast Nigeria. The ideology, the agenda of establishing a 'caliphate' in the region, and the way they operate is the same. We can see how they afflict terrible suffering on innocent people. This is deeply worrying; we really need to pay attention to these events.”

Observers say the number of attacks attributed to ADF has been increasing in number and intensity since the start of an army offensive against the group in October 2019.  

Meanwhile, a local citizens group named Lucha, suggests that more than 1,200 civilians have since been killed by the militants. 

The ADF, also known as Muslim Defence International, has been attacking communities for decades, including killing and kidnapping Christians, and training and sending jihadists to other countries in Africa. 

Last year a UN report suggested the "widespread, systematic and extremely brutal" rights abuses by the ADF “could constitute, by their nature and scope, crimes against humanity and war crimes".

The UN's Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has said that the ADF is connected to other jihadist groups across Africa.  

“In my opinion the ADF today is part of a network that starts in Libya and stretches to the Sahel, to the Lake Chad region, and which is present in Mozambique," he told African news site RFI.  

The ADF has not formally linked itself with the Islamic State, but IS has started to claim responsibility for some of the attacks by ADF and has called Congo the “Central Africa Province" of the “caliphate". 

Despite the DRC government launching a military operation to defeat the extremists and having a large presence of United Nations peacekeepers, the violence continues.

“So far, from what we can see, they are not winning that war despite this military campaign or huge military presence,” Djadi said. “The UN has the largest peacekeepers in the world in DRC, but the ADF radical Islamic group is still capable to carry out mass killing of innocent civilians.”

Open Doors has urgently called on the national government and the international community to do everything they can to protect innocent lives and to restore peace in this troubled region.

The charity has also called for Christians to pray for the country.

“Let's pray for the local church leaders who are doing their best to bring relief and support to the affected community,” Djadi said.

“It’s not easy, they are overwhelmed by the scale of the attacks because of thousands of people displaced already.

“Also pray for the political leadership in the DRC to do what they are supposed to do for the protection of this vulnerable population.”

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