Fighting between armed groups in Congo’s troubled east has left six dead, just days after a first round of peace talks ended, local sources and a researcher said on Monday.
Clashes in South Kivu province’s Fizi territory on Saturday pitted groups from the Banyamulenge, a Congolese Tutsi community, against an ethnic militia called the Biloze Bishambuke Self-Defence Force, or FABB.
Scores of rebel groups are active in east Congo, many of them a legacy of two regional wars a quarter century ago.
Gady Mukiza, administrative head of Minembwe district, said, “FABB elements reacted to what they considered to be a provocation” by three groups of Banyamulenge forces accused of seizing two villages in a traditionally neutral zone.
In addition to the six killed, several people were wounded, Mukiza said.
Two of the three Banyamulenge groups — the Twirwaneho and Ngumino factions — attended peace talks in Nairobi, Kenya, last week.
Nearly 30 delegates representing a number of armed groups in Ituri and North and South Kivu provinces joined the parley, along with envoys sent by President Felix Tshisekedi.
The five-day session, which ended on Wednesday, is expected to be followed by more talks in the coming weeks.
“The Nairobi meetings unfortunately cannot put a stop to clashes between armed groups on Fizi territory,” said Josaphat Musamba, a researcher at Bukavu’s Institute of Higher Education. “The Congolese state is asking armed groups … to join the disarmament and rehabilitation program,” but in Fizi, groups are battling to “occupy territory.”
Musamba added that FABB was apparently angry it had not been invited to the Nairobi talks.
Millions of people died from violence, disease or starvation in the 1996-1997 and 1998-2003 Congo wars.
The conflict enmeshed countries from around east and central Africa and spawned myriad rebel groups, which typically claim to defend the interests of ethnic communities.