Human rights violations escalate in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo


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In the hardest-hit North Kivu and Ituri provinces, UNHCR And its partners recorded more than 1,200 civilian deaths and 1,100 rapes, which constitutes a total of 25,000 human rights violations.

Speaking in Geneva, UNHCR spokesperson Boris Checherkov said violence “continues to claim lives and drive people out of their homes”.

Soap is being prepared for distribution by UNHCR in a warehouse in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Soap is being prepared for distribution by UNHCR in a warehouse in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. By © UNHCR / Michelle Ehouman

Host families ‘stressed’

In all, more than a million Congolese were internally displaced in the east of the country in 2021, placing “tremendous pressure” on those forced to flee and on host families, which absorbed 94 percent of the forcibly displaced population in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“The host families have shown great generosity towards their fellow citizens, but they are exhausted and need support if they are to continue as first responders,” said Mr. Cheshirkov.

IDPs are often forced to return to their places of origin due to harsh living conditions and food shortages, further exposing them to risk. Abuse and violence. He said that 65 per cent of the grave human rights violations recorded by UNHCR and its partners were committed against returnees.

Siege state

Mr. Chicherkov said that attacks attributed to the Allied Democratic Armed Forces (ADF) group have become more brutal since late 2020, and the pace of civilian killings has not abated.

This is despite a Siege stateIt was announced in early May 2021 to counter the activities of these armed groups.

He described how armed men identified as ADF members raided a village in Irumu province, killing 15 civilians, setting fire to 10 homes and abducting two women on 3 September.

This was followed on 6 September by an attack by an armed group whose militia members reportedly raped 10 displaced women in Djogo district, Ituri province.

He said UNHCR and its partners took the women to the nearest hospital, where they received psychosocial and medical support.

Forcibly displaced women and girls suffer disproportionately from sexual and gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Forcibly displaced women and girls suffer disproportionately from sexual and gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, © UNHCR/Olivia Acland

According to Mr. Checherkov, the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri are now under the command of military governments, following the state of siege.

This prompted the national army to intensify its operations and to replace civilian courts with military courts. He said that some of these armed groups surrendered after seeing their territories shrink, and other groups faced military operations with retaliation against villages, and individuals they believed were supporting the government.

Funding ‘too low’

Despite government efforts to curb abuses by armed groups, “our teams continue to hear horrific accounts of sexual violence, extortion and looting,” he said.

Emphasizing UNHCR’s call for urgent measures to protect civilians, Mr. Cheshirkov warned that funding “for this humanitarian crisis remains very low. Less than four months after the end of the year, UNHCR has received only 51 per cent of the $205 million requested in 2021 for its operations.” In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, making UNHCR “only able to respond to a small portion of the population urgently. Need”.

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