A top commander of the Congolese army has spoken of positive developments in the restive North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which became notorious for its bloody massacres since 2014.
Since the massacres began just under three years ago in the territories of Beni, Butembo and Lubero in North Kivu, more than 1,150 people have been killed and kidnapped. The governor of North Kivu had described 2016 as "a bloody year".
The assailants' identity remained unknown, but residents believe they could be from the Ugandan-led Islamist armed group Allied Democratic Forces, known as ADF-Nalu, who have inhabited the region's dense forest for three decades.
The national army (FARDC), with the support of the the United Nations peacekeeping mission to DRC – Monusco – launched an offensive against the ADF-Nalu. A senior commander on 18 April said the FARDC have now regained control over the area, effectively quelling the killings.
"To date, we have reported zero killed in Beni compared to the massacres that were taking place," General Fall Sikabwe, commander of the 34th Military Region and commander of the Sokola 1 South operations, is quoted as saying by UN-funded Radio Okapi. "I think that since 9 October 2016 until this day, there have been no killings in Beni and its surroundings. We can say that something has been done."
Sikabwe said that the security situation in the territories of Beni and Lubero is "generally calm and under the control of the FARDC", mainly thanks to "the shield set up with FARDC's partners". "The situation is largely under control on our side."
In the last few days, rumours of attacks on the city of Butembo have been reported, with witnesses saying that leaflets warning the population of an impending assault have been collected in the streets in Beni and Butembo.
However, Sikabwe urged the population to stay calm. "There is a contingent strong enough to face any threat in the city of Butembo, for example, or outside of Butembo," the general explained.
The territories of Beni and Lubero in the mineral-rich North Kivu province have been the scene of killings since 2014. Thousands have been displaced, and hundreds have simply been "kidnapped" and have disappeared without trace.
Witnesses and survivors have told IBTimes UK how perpetrators of these attacks often use weapons, including machetes, to operate and terrorise the population. Victims included babies, children and the elderly.