Congo residents go on strike to protest violence, paralyzing northeastern city

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People are seen on a street in Beni, northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), on Sept. 14, 2021. Beni, a city in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), went "paralyzed" since Monday during a two-day "dead city" strike declared by the local civil society that claims to be "sick of" the violence for the last two decades. (Photo by Delphin Mupanda/Xinhua)
People are seen on a street in Beni, northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), on September 14, 2021. (Photo by Delphin Mupanda/Xinhua)

Beni, a city in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), went “paralyzed” since Monday during a two-day “dead city” strike declared by the local civil society that claims to be “sick of” the violence for the last two decades.

Since Monday, the city in DRC’s North-Kivu province has ground to a halt with everything shut down by its civil society that is calling for solutions from the government to eradicate the armed elements in the region, especially the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

“We have decreed two days with no activities in the city of Beni at the request of its people who have suffered enough by repeated massacres for decades,” said Pascal Muliwavyo, one of the leaders of Beni’s civil society, adding that the people are “sick of” all the suffering they have endured.

“Every night, around five households are raided by armed bandits with guns or sharp weapon,” said Muliwavyo, noting that their decision to sedate the city is to raise the awareness of the government to address the issue.

Roughly two months ago, the city was also shut down for 48 hours after two back-to-back bomb blasts, causing one death and multiple injuries. But local residents seem to be in favor of the civil society’s decision, even if they might have to live two days without any income.

“We have been suffering. Our cars are burnt down, shops got raided and women and children got violated by the ADF,” said Henriette Masika, a local business owner. The decision to shut the city down is a “cry for help”.

“We used to have fields to grow cacao. But because of the killing by the ADF members, we can no longer go there,” he said.

Since the beginning of this year, members of the ADF, originated in Uganda, have increased their attacks in North Kivu and the neighboring Ituri. Faced with growing insecurity in the region, DRC President Felix Tshisekedi declared a state of siege in the two provinces in April.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) voiced its concerns last week about the “worsening situation” in Beni.

In the first two weeks of August, at least 27 civilians were killed in this area, where 37 other civilians had already been killed in July 2021, the humanitarian office said, adding that more than 710,000 people have been displaced in Beni territory.

“For more than three months, the violence continued…We believed in the state of siege and three months later, we see that it has not made it possible to secure us,” said Kathembo Matsipa Jean-Baptiste, a resident from Beni, calling the government to find another solution to the violence.

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