Goma. A major armed group in eastern DR Congo says it has ousted its leader, accusing him of "deviationist" leadership and rights abuses, a move that security experts said Friday had sparked brutal infighting.
A statement issued in the name of the "high command" of the militia, called the Nduma Defence of Congo / Renewed (NDC/R), said it was stripping Shimiray Mwisa Guidon "of the position of commander-in-chief."
He has been replaced by Gilbert Bwira, according to the statement, issued on Wednesday.
The NDC/R is a major player among the dozens of armed groups that exert a bloody grip over the provinces of North and South Kivu and Ituri, largely as a legacy of the region's two wars of the 1990s.
The militia claims to be fighting Rwandan Hutu rebels in the Democratic Forces of the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) -- a group blamed for massacres and mass displacement of civilians.
A monitoring group called the Kivu Security Tracker (KST) said Friday the NDC/R -- which itself splintered from the NDC in 2014 -- had between 1,000 and 5,000 members or allies.
It said that after the announcement of the dismissal, "internecine fighting" had broken out, and gave a provisional death toll of seven on Guidon's side and two on Bwira's.
The statement issued on Wednesday accused Guidon of "deviationist behaviour towards the ideals... that give meaning to the fight we are conducting against the genocidal Rwandan FDLR."
It accused him of "serious violations of international humanitarian law" that had caused him to be placed under UN sanctions in 2018, followed by an arrest warrant issued by the DRC authorities the following year.
The statement reiterated that the group wanted to "lay down its arms and leave the bush as soon as possible" and urged the DRC government to accept its conditions, which include integrating its fighters in the armed forces.