‘Armed atrocities’ claimed the lives of 2,000 civilians in the Congo in 2020.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is alarmed at ongoing atrocities carried out by armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which it says “have become part of a systematic pattern to disrupt civilians’ lives, instill fear and create havoc”.
In 2020, UNHCR partners registered a record of more than 2,000 civilians killed in the three eastern provinces (1,240 in Ituri, 590 in North Kivu and 261 in South Kivu).
The majority of these attacks were attributed to armed groups.
“The killings and kidnappings have continued in North Kivu in 2021, where attacks have also been directed against displaced civilians,” said UNCHR.
On 24 January, an armed group killed two men and seriously injured six others in an incursion into a site for forcibly displaced people in North Kivu’s Masisi Territory.
A week prior to that, three people living in Kivuye displacement site in Masisi Territory, which is supported by UNHCR, were kidnapped during raids by an armed group.
This group has also imposed a 7pm curfew in the area, after which they visit the residents’ houses to force ‘security’ payments.
More than 88,000 displaced people reside in 22 sites supported by UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Many others live in spontaneous sites – while some 90 per cent are accommodated in host communities.
UNCHR claims that while the Congolese army’s military operations against militia groups are more often successful than in the past, the armed forces don’t have the capacity to maintain control of the areas they secure, leaving space for armed actors to reclaim those areas and to impose themselves on the local population.
The agency is advocating for swift and independent investigations into the crimes committed so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice.
And it is working together with local authorities and communities to protect civilians in the affected areas through “grassroots initiatives”.
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