Bunia – Three people died as rival militias clashed for a second day on Saturday for control of a gold mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s troubled northeastern province of Ituri, the groups said.
Scores of armed groups roam Ituri and neighbouring North Kivu, many a legacy of two regional wars a quarter of a century ago.
Ituri and North Kivu have under an army-led “state of siege” since May 2021 in a bid to clamp down on the militias.
Fighting began Friday around the Tulabo mine in Irumu territory between the Patriotic Resistance Force of Ituri (FRPI) and the Patriotic and Integrationist Force of the Congo (FPIC), residents said.
“FRPI militiamen built a camp to exploit the Tulabo gold mine. It’s a provocation. During the fighting to drive them out, two were killed and one died on our side”, said Kabulano Nyamabo, an FPIC spokesperson.
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An FRPI spokesperson confirmed the two deaths.
“Some of our elements can end up exploiting gold illegally. But the FPIC attacked us for no reason,” the militia’s spokesman Muno Munobi told AFP.
The army claimed to have restored order.
“The regiment commander and his men arrived on the ground and the army imposed order. We are already putting in place a mechanism to control the natural resources” in this area, said Lieutenant Jules Ngongo, a spokesman for the army in Ituri.
The violence comes just weeks after the two groups signed agreements to stop fighting.
Violence resumed in gold-rich Ituri in 2017 with the emergence of CODECO – the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo – militia.
CODECO is considered one of the deadliest of the militias operating in the east and blamed for a number of ethnic massacres.