Armed group in DR Congo says to lay down weapons

The DR Congo army said an operation to uproot CODECO was gaining ground after the death of its leader Justin Ngondjolu in late March. /VCG Image

An armed group in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s northeast says it will lay down its arms and stop attacks against civilians and the army, weeks after its leader was killed and other top leaders arrested.

The Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO), now under Ngabu Ngawi Olivier, is known for using fetishes to protect its fighters.

On Monday, Olivier said the group wants a ceasefire and talks with the government, a potential breakthrough for President Felix Tshisekedi who pledged to bring an end to the unrest in the region.

The militant leader did not however give any date for CODECO’s planned end of violence.

In recent weeks, violence in the Djugu Territory of northern Ituri province has forced thousands of people to flee their homes, complicating the government’s efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reuters quotes Olivier to say the group no longer saw any need to carry arms.

“We are a peaceful sect and war does not benefit us,” Olivier told Reuters.

“We took up arms to protect ourselves against attacks by the (army) and other religious communities on our followers. But now I think it is no longer important to continue killing civilians or attacking the army.”

Last week, the DR Congo army said an operation to uproot CODECO was gaining ground after the death of its leader Justin Ngondjolu in late March.