On Sunday night, rebel fighters carried out an attack against civilians in Apetina-Sana, an eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Attackers are said to be members of the rebel group A.D.F. (Allied Democratic Forces), a group active in the D.R.C. and in Uganda. The rebels reportedly “hacked” victims to death and burnt their homes down during the hours-long attack. Since Apetina-Sana is located in the region of Beni, some citizens chose to walk to Beni City after the attack to seek shelter. Civilians in the area are angry because of the government’s apparent reluctance to follow up on threats of violence that may lead to such attacks and the lack of protection being afforded to the area and its citizens.
Haru Mutasa, who works with Al Jazeera, gave the following evaluation of the Apetina-Sana citizens’ perspective in a recent Al Jazeera article: “They feel that all the resources go to the capital…The roads are in a bad state, there’s no infrastructure, they feel let down. So a lot of people say that when these attacks happen- and they do happen often- they feel alone.” In the same article from Al Jazeera, Teddy Kataliko, an activist based in Beni, shed light on suspicious happenings that occurred in another Beni town before the attack in the following quote: “The authorities were tipped off on Sunday evening about the presence of suspicious men west of Oicha…We continue to ask the D.R.C. armed forces to launch operations on the western side as well to save civilians.”
The lack of attention paid to the region of Beni by the D.R.C. government in the wake of these attacks is unacceptable. More action needs to be taken by the government and by the armed forces to protect citizens. Groups like the A.D.F. should not be able to continue these violent attacks without facing consequences or without being met with resistance of any form. If possible, the government should attempt to organize some sort of talks or discussions with representatives or leaders from groups like A.D.F. to learn more about the group’s demands. Through such discussions, leaders in the DRC could learn more about what motivates the attacks and use that information to attempt to reconcile the group’s concerns or to better respond to the attacks when they happen.
People in the D.R.C. should not be concerned about if the government will protect them. One of the main purposes of a government should be to provide security and protection to its citizens in exchange for their sacrifice of power to a central entity. Though the immediate concern is the safety of the citizens of Beni from attacks, infrastructure in the area is important as well. The welfare of the citizens of Beni will be greatly increased if more resources are dedicated to their region. With a stable infrastructure, they will also be better prepared to prevent and recover from such attacks if they continue.
A.D.F. rebels have been staging attacks in the D.R.C. for the past twenty years. Apetina-Sana, Mbau, and Eringeti are three locations which, when connected, form the “Triangle of Death.” This is because the area contained within its reach has experienced the most attacks from the A.D.F. Though the D.R.C. army did start an offensive against the A.D.F. on October 30th, the death count has risen to over 200 people since then. There have been cases in which the pursuit or investigation of suspicious happenings, like the ones described by activist Teddy Kataliko, could have prevented attacks. However, many citizens feel that the government and armed forces have not utilized all of the necessary resources to combat the continuing problem with the A.D.F.
In the coming weeks, it remains to be seen whether the A.D.F attacks will continue in the Beni region and whether the D.R.C. government will commit more resources to the region in response to citizen anger.