On June 27th, two explosions shook the city of Beni, located in the North Kivu province in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Reuters reported that the first blast took place at a local church and injured two people. Hours later, the second blast occurred at a crowded intersection, killing the suspected bomber of both attacks. The explosive prematurely detonated while in possession of the bomber, with reportedly no other casualties.
According to the national army, the two attacks were carried out by a member of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel Islamist militia group based in Uganda and the DR Congo with ties to the Islamic State (ISIS). Islamic State also reportedly claimed responsibility for the blasts committed by the ADF, as it has done multiple times in the past. However, the UN has cautioned that there was no evidence of direct support from the terrorist group. The UN has also pointed out that these attacks may have been committed by another militia group, although the ADF seems to be the likely perpetrator in this instance.
Attacks of this nature are nothing new in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Fear and violence triggered by rebel militia groups have troubled the African country for decades and have intensified since 2014. According to data from the Mercy Corps, over 100 militia groups are terrorizing eastern DR Congo, fighting for control of territory. The ADF, being one of the most violent groups, has killed over 1,200 people in Beni alone since 2017, as reported by the Kivu Security Tracker. The bloodshed and fighting have caused 4.5 million people to be internally displaced and 13.1 million people to be in dire need of aid. Making the situation in the DRC one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
In response to the dual blasts, the mayor of Beni called for a curfew and the temporary shut-down of schools, churches, and markets. To counter further threats from militant groups like the ADF, President Felix Tshisekedi previously called for a state of siege in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces back in May. Allowing for the military to step in to fight off the militia groups. President Tshisekedi urged residents to trust the ability of the national defense forces to stop the raging violence in the region. United Nations peacekeepers (MONUSCO) have also been sent to support the DR Congo military in the struggle against rebel militia groups.
However, military and UN efforts to end the violence have proven to be inadequate. The ADF and other militia groups continue to wreak havoc on civilians in the DRC. President Tshisekedi has been criticized for his response to the militia groups, which appears to not be sufficient to put an end to the violence on the ground once and for all.
“We don’t know what our authorities are doing. The idea is to protect the inhabitants, but here we are again… We are really angry,” stated Kathembo Ngeleza, who took to the streets to protest against yet another attack in Beni on July 1st, just four days after the dual blasts. Suspected members of the ADF had raided and set fire to several homes and killed at least ten people.
After the dual blasts on Beni, it is clear that the Democratic Republic of the Congo is in a desperate situation where the path to peace is uncertain. As attacks on civilians worsen, government and UN tactics to stop the surge of rebel groups prove to be ineffective. To end the violence from rebel groups like the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), the DRC needs real change, whether through intensifying government and UN efforts or looking into other ways to secure communities. At the end of the day, it is the civilians who are the victims of these senseless crimes, which is why combatting rebel militia groups is crucial to achieving peace in the DR Congo.