GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - U.N. human rights experts say conditions are deteriorating for millions of civilians caught up in the chronic armed conflict in the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The experts presented their latest findings to the U.N. Human Rights Council Monday.
The last time U.N. human rights chief Michele Bachelet testified about conditions in Congo’s eastern Kasai region was October. At that time, she presented evidence of the devastating impact of armed conflict on the people, noting that some incidents could amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity.
She told the Council Monday that since then, the situation in the eastern DRC, especially in the provinces of North and South Kivu and Ituri, has continued to worsen. She called the scale of violence alarming. She said that last year, her office had verified the killing of nearly 3,000 civilians by armed groups.
She said hateful rhetoric from politicians, community leaders and members of the Congolese diaspora is making the situation worse.
“Given the context of escalating bloodshed, and the country’s history of intercommunal violence, I am deeply concerned that the current widespread increase in hate speech could further inflame conflict…Widespread impunity for violations and abuses of human rights, mistrust between communities, and discrimination against certain groups contribute to this terrain,” she said.
Bachelet called on Congolese authorities to strengthen efforts to combat discrimination and hostility against people because of their ethnic, religious and gender identity.
Bintou Keita is head of MONUSCO, the U.N. stabilization mission in the DRC. She has just returned from a visit to Goma, Bukavu, Beni, and Bunia, where she met with military and civil authorities.
Keita said she discussed her concerns about the rampant violence, escalating armed attacks and worsening human rights situation in the eastern provinces. She spoke through an interpreter.
“It is urgent to redouble efforts in order to bring security to the populations, to attack the different causes underlying conflicts and guarantee stability in the east. All of this, in the strict respect of international humanitarian law and human rights,” she said.
The DRCs minister for human rights, Andre Lite Asebea, told the Council Monday that his government is working to promote and protect human rights.
He said his country had problems with terrorist groups in the east and that it was exploring all avenues to eradicate this scourge. He said efforts were under way to reform the security service, as well as legal procedures regarding international crimes.