Unidentified gunmen shot dead a priest who accused ethnic groups in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo of carrying out a genocide against the Nande community.
The assailants killed Father Vincent Machozi on Sunday while he was visiting the village of Butembo in North Kivu province, Mayor Theodere Sikuli said by phone. The authorities are investigating his death, Sikuli said.
Machozi returned to Congo after living in exile in the U.S. for almost a decade and had escaped several assassination attempts since his return, Sikuli said. The priest had recently opposed the return of displaced Congolese Hutus in North Kivu after accusing them of conspiring with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo, or FDLR, to kill ethnic Nande people.
Congo, almost the size of Western Europe, is the world’s largest source of cobalt and Africa’s biggest miner of copper and tin. It’s struggled for two decades to defeat dozens of local and foreign militias in the east of the country. The United Nations said in February fighting between ethnic Hutus and Nande communities in North Kivu had reached an “alarming level.” In January, UN peacekeepers agreed to work with the Congolese army to defeat the FDLR, some of whose leaders are linked to the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda.