DR Congo: scores killed in rebel attacks on gold mine as anti-Rwanda protests spread

Separate attacks by rebels on a gold mine in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Wednesday (14 February) saw at least 14 people killed, including two South African soldiers, amid escalating violence.

Rebels from the CODECO armed group are reported to have also kidnapped at least 16 others at a gold mine near Djugu district in Ituri province. Meanwhile, the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) said on Thursday (15 February) that two of its soldiers had been killed and three were wounded by a mortar fire, the first fatalities since it deployed troops there. Efforts to reduce violence and help bring peace and security to the eastern DRC have seen the deployment of thousands of South African troops as part of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) mission to fight against armed rebel groups in the region.

But violence has been on the rise in the conflict-hit region in recent weeks, with many blaming attacks on the M23, or March 23 Movement, rebel group, one of more than 120 armed groups operating in the territory, that has been fighting Congolese soldiers in the region for years.

Kinshasa, backed by experts from the United Nations and the European Union, claims M23 is receiving military support from neighboring Rwanda, but Kigali denies the allegations. Meanwhile, protests against Rwanda and Western countries spread throughout eastern DRC on Thursday (15 February), with demonstrators accusing them of complicity with the M23 rebel group.

M23, a largely Tutsi group, has been on the offensive over the past two years in North Kivu, with combat recently intensifying around the provincial capital, Goma.