UNHCR 'alarmed' over violence in eastern DR Congo

1,200 civilian deaths, 1,100 rapes, 25,000 human rights violations documented by UNHCR, says spokesman

Aurore Bonny   | 10.09.2021
UNHCR 'alarmed' over violence in eastern DR Congo

DOUALA, Cameroon

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) on Friday expressed alarm over violence committed by armed groups against civilians in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

"UNHCR and its partners have recorded more than 1,200 civilian deaths and 1,100 rapes this year in the two most affected provinces of North Kivu and Ituri," UNHCR Spokesman Boris Cheshirkov said in a statement.

Cheshirkov said that UNHCR has also documented 25,000 human rights violations and that more than one million people were internally displaced in the east of the country in 2021.

“Repeated displacement has put enormous pressure on those forced to flee and the host families that have taken in 94 percent of DRC’s forcibly displaced population,” he said.

"The difficult living conditions and lack of food often trigger a premature return of displaced persons to their place of origin, which exposes them to further abuse and violence. Returnees account for 65% of victims of serious human rights violations," he added.

Cheshirkov also noted that attacks attributed to the armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) have become more brutal since the end of 2020.

"Some armed groups, seeing their territory reduced, have capitulated. Others are retaliating against military operations with reprisals against villages and individuals they perceive as government supporters," he said.

The statement said that funding for the response to this humanitarian crisis remains "critically low."

With 19.6 million people in urgent need of assistance, DR Congo continues to experience one of the most complex and long-standing humanitarian crises, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Solutions considered

On June 29, 2021, the UN Security Council extended its arms embargo on DR Congo until July 1, 2022, expressing concern about the continued presence of national and foreign armed groups in the east of the country and the suffering they were inflicting on the country's civilian population.

"It is important to ensure that stocks of arms and ammunition are managed and stored more safely and effectively and that their security is strengthened, in particular, to reduce the risk that armed groups will seize parts to make improvised explosive devices," the council said.

For its part, Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde Kyenge has called on militiamen to surrender and assured that his government would implement a policy to integrate those who choose to surrender.

The administration of Felix Tshisekedi, the Congolese president, "should adopt a comprehensive approach that prioritizes justice for serious crimes, a real clean-up of the security forces, and an effective system for demobilizing ex-combatants," Thomas Fessy, senior researcher for the DR Congo Human Right Watch, recommended in a May 7 report.

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