As videos of soldiers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) army shooting Congolese citizens circulate on social media, the United Nation’s peacekeeper, Maman Sambo Sidikou, is calling for an investigation into the possible violations of human rights and into the mass graves discovered in January and February of this year, the New York Times reports. Just last month, the Times continues, a video showing the murder of, at least, 13 civilians lead to the arrest of 7 officers by the Congolese military’s auditor general, but human rights advocates say that this is not enough to curb what appears to be a growing problem.
Speaking for the DRC government, Lambert Mende assured Reuter’s that the mass graves had been dug by and for the militia and that the DRC army was not involved. But, many are not convinced. Congolese Parliament Member, Claudel André Lubaya, is arguing for an independent international investigation to confirm the identity of the victims and to discover who is responsible for their deaths. According to Al Jazeera, just who is killing civilians en masse is difficult to ascertain, with reports accusing the Congolese army, rebel groups, such as the Allied Democratic Forces, and other splinter militia groups. It is all too clear that the violence is spreading away from the eastern provinces of the DRC, as Sidikou reported before the UN.
According to Reuters, people on the ground say that there is an element of ethnic cleansing attached to the new waves of violence within the DRC. If this is true, and there is no reason to doubt the claims at this point in time, it is difficult to see how international help will be able to properly address the situation. It is only with internal changes and increased education that ethnic conflicts can be resolved. But, it is also increasingly clear that the DRC government is not capable of addressing the situation without assistance, especially if the claims of the Congolese army themselves carrying out killings prove to be true. As the calls for outside intervention are primarily coming from those within the DRC itself, such as elected officials and human rights advocates, there is every reason to believe that those individuals are capable of making the necessary changes from within if provided with enough international support.
The waves of violence within the DRC began at the end of last year, when Congolese President Joseph Kabila refused to step down at the conclusion of his term, choosing instead to pursue a possible third term in office. Reuters reports that a treaty addressing the political situation was signed on the last day of December by both the government and the opposition, but it depends almost entirely on President Kabila’s willingness to leave his position. The political situation was further weakened when the primary leader of the opposition, Étienne Tshisekedi, died while undergoing medical treatment in Belgium in February.
Despite the precarious political situation and the increasing violence, voter enrollment within the DRC has continued apace, the UN reports. As a result of the calls for an international investigation into possible human rights violations, which are largely coming from within the DRC itself, there is a reason to hope that the threat of such an investigation will provide enough pressure to curb, at least, some of the violence against citizens. As well, it may also help to convince President Kabila that it is the best interest of his country for him to follow through on his agreement to step down after the elections are held this year.
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