20 killed in ethnic violence in DR Congo: rights monitor

War-displaced people flee towards the city of Goma, eastern Republic of Congo, on November 15, 2022.

Photo credit: AFP

Armed men killed at least 20 people in western Democratic Republic of Congo this week in ethnic conflict that has claimed hundreds of lives, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

The rights monitor said fighters from the Mobondo militia ambushed a truck carrying traders from the Teke ethnic group on Monday.

They torched the bus near a village in the Kwamouth region in Mai-Ndombe, northeast of the capital, Kinshasa.

"The conflict over land and customary claims erupted in June 2022 between so-called 'native' and 'non-native' communities; hundreds have been killed," the New York-based body said.

"The simmering dispute escalated into widespread violence after many farmers, mainly Yaka, rejected an increase of customary royalties by 'native' Teke chiefs," HRW said.

"Groups calling themselves 'Mobondo' after mystical amulets, mainly recruited among the 'non-native' Yaka, Suku, Mbala, Ndinga and Songo communities, have targeted Teke villagers with machetes, spears, hunting rifles and military assault rifles."

It added that thousands of people have fled their homes, triggering a humanitarian crisis.

"Multiple attacks have happened this year and the latest deadly incident is a reminder of the urgency of the crisis," HRW said.