Rampant Killings And Rapes In North Kivu Region of Democratic Republic Of Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo, a Central African Country, has suffered a long history of foreign conquest and domestic conflicts. Since its independence from Belgium in 1960, D.R.C. has experienced repeated waves of civil wars, often with foreign intrusion. The D.R.C. is currently in the midst of a civil war between the M23 movement and civilians suspected of supporting rival armed groups such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (F.D.L.R.). The conflict has also involved the Congolese Republic’s regular army, which is under the leadership of Félix Antoine Tshilombo Tshisekedi. Currently, violence is concentrated in the southern territories near the border with Rwanda, near Goma, the capital of the eastern province of North Kivu.

Since November, Amnesty International has carried out an investigation into the crimes committed in the region. Survivors and witnesses said that between 21-30 November 2022, fighters of the M23 group killed at least 20 men and raped at least 66 women and girls.

The M23 group claims to be fighting for the implementation of political agreements with the Congolese government, which were supposed to provide for the safe return of Congolese Tutsi refugees who had been in Rwanda for two decades. U.N. reports suggest that the group is supported by Rwanda. The M23 has taken control of a vast territory in the province of North Kivu this past year, bordering Rwanda and Uganda, pushing half a million people to flee their homes.

The rebellious nature of the M23 group is being questioned, as it has become increasingly clear that their main objective is to gain control over a mineral-rich region of the country on behalf of foreign forces, primarily Rwanda. This has been achieved through their successful attempts at exerting control over the area.

Amnesty International encouraged survivors and witnesses of the November violence to tell their stories and discovered that after taking control of Kishishe, M23 fighters went house-to-house, summarily killing every adult male they found and subjecting scores of women to rape, including gang rape, often committed in front of children. A survivor said to Amnesty, “they broke through the gate of the compound and rounded up all the men present, seven in total, who they killed. Five soldiers then raped us: six women and me. They called us F.D.L.R. wives.”

Survivors also claimed they received medical assistance after the violence, but they did not receive psychological support. Unfortunately, healthcare facilities in the region neither have specialists nor adequate equipment to help. The Congolese authorities have condemned the crimes and have promised to do everything possible to ensure justice, but Amnesty claims that after three months, progress has been minimal.

Considering the crimes perpetuated against innocent people and the amount of human and material damage caused to the region, national and international authorities must bring those who commit such horrible atrocities to justice and hold them accountable. Too often have such tragic situations in African countries been ignored. The international community, including institutions such as the U.N., should work to help heal the remaining wounds in countries as tormented as Congo.