Two cities in eastern DR Congo were “paralysed” Monday, local sources said, on the first day of protest strikes over continuing massacres of civilians which the army and UN peacekeepers have failed to stop.

Pressure groups including Veranda Mutshanga and Fight for Change (Lucha) called at the weekend for people to halt their normal routines for 10 days in the Beni region and Butembo in the east of the sprawling Democratic Republic of Congo.

Directed at the UN’s MONUSCO peacekeeping mission and the national army, the strikes aim to “confront them with their responsibility over the massacres”, Lucha activist Clovis Mutsuva said.

Sylvain Kanyamanda, mayor of regional economic hub Butembo, told AFP that “young people from Lucha demonstrated outside the MONUSCO office… Economic operators haven’t been able to work. Schools are closed, it’s paralysing the city.”

Kahindo Mbusa, president of the Butembo chapter of the Congo Drivers’ Association (ACCO), said that “we respected the call to strike because we drivers are the ones the attackers kill first when there’s an ambush.”

Barricades have been set up “all along the Beni-Butembo road, and the service stations weren’t working,” Mbusa added.

Witnesses told AFP that the Kasindi road leading to the Ugandan border, an important artery for goods and agricultural produce, was also almost deserted on Monday.

In the city of Beni, an AFP correspondent found shops and schools closed.

Almost 300 youths took part in a dangerous impromptu search across 45 kilometres (28 miles) of bush territory on Friday, looking for Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militants.

The ADF historically is a Ugandan Islamist group believed by experts from the Kivu Security Tracker to be behind the killings of 1,842 civilians since April 2017.

It is the bloodiest of scores of armed militias that roam eastern DRC, many of them a legacy of two regional wars in the 1990s.

The United States said earlier this month that it is also linked to the Islamic State (IS) group.

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