UN raises alarm over possible war crimes in DRC

The United Nations has warned of possible war crimes in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The warning came in a report released by the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) on Wednesday.

It blamed militia mostly from the ethnic Lendu community in the region for barbaric acts such as “widespread and systematic killings, beheadings and rape,” among others.

UNJHRO said the atrocities might constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.

According to the report, no fewer than 296 people, including women and children, were killed in the six months leading to April.

It said 151 others were wounded and 38 raped, mostly by fighters linked to the CODECO rebel group whose fighters are drawn from the Lendu ethnic group.

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“The persistence of this violence is likely to push members of the communities targeted by the attacks, who have so far shown restraint, to form self-defence militias.

“This could increase the likelihood of large-scale inter-communal violence in the region.

“There is a high risk that leaders with more radical positions will emerge and plunge the area into a more serious cycle of violence, with even more attacks against (the army) and civilians,” the report said.

The ethnic violence, which started in 1999, emanated from a power struggle between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups over the control of resources.

Rich in diamond, gold and other natural resources, the Ituri province in the northeast saw the country’s worst fighting between 1999 and 2007.

UNJRHO said revenge fighting erupted again in Dec. 2017 after years of relative calm, reviving longstanding tensions over land.

“The recent attacks against civilians not only targeted the Hema and Alur communities but included communities previously spared.

“The raids intensified from March this year, particularly around artisanal mining sites.

Since June 2018, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, bringing the number of displaced people in Ituri province to more than 1.2 million,” it said.



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