More than 250 people, including 62 children, were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between March and June of this year, according to a new UN report. The report is based on interviews with 96 refugees who fled Congo’s Kasai region into Angola. From their accounts, the UN report counted 251 killings, of which 150 are attributed to the Bara Mura militia, 79 to the Kamwina Nsapu militia, and government forces are responsible for another 22 killings.
However, the UN figure may considerably underestimate the true scale of casualties. According to the Catholic Church, more than 3,300 people have perished in the violence in Kasai and 1.4 million civilians were displaced. So far, 80 mass graves have been found in this region. In response to this disturbing violence, UN Human Rights Chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, urged Congo’s government to “act now to prevent such violence from tipping into wider ethnic cleansing.” Meanwhile, although UN spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, acknowledged that the bloodletting in Congo is “regularly brought up to attention,” access for international aid to this region has been difficult. Indeed, the murder of two UN experts in Kasai in March has raised serious security concerns.
Nevertheless, the fact is that all parties should be held to account in this crisis. As mentioned, both pro and anti-government forces were involved in the killing of 251 people. There were gross violations of human rights, such as extrajudicial killings, rapes, and torture. However, a more distressing concern is the militia’s use of child soldiers. The UN report found that the Kamwina Nsapu has been forcing children to resist government forces for over a year. As a result, not only are those children deprived of education, their lives are also endangered almost every minute. Besides, it is also extremely inhumane to force children, particularly at such an age, to kill their fellows. Such kinds of cruelty definitely amounts to a crime under international law, which must be stopped as soon as possible.
Furthermore, Kasai was once a calm and peaceful region, but widespread violence erupted last August when an anti-government chief, Kamwina Nsapu, was killed. As a result, the local militia group, Kamwina Nsapu, which adopted the chief’s name, was later formed in opposition to the government. Thus, the conflict between the Kamwina Nsapu and the government forces has continued till now. To complicate the situation, a new militia, with the backing of the government, called Bana Mura was formed in March. Meanwhile, as the President of the DRC Joseph Kabila refused to step down after his second term in last December, tensions are likely to heighten across the whole country. Despite repeated international calls for the Kabila government to hold elections as required under its constitution, the president always responded by saying he needed more time. At this moment Kabila remains in office under a transitional deal.
Meanwhile, as the President of the DRC, Joseph Kabila, refused to step down after his second term in last December, tensions are likely to heighten across the whole country. Despite repeated international calls for the Kabila government to hold elections as required under its Constitution, the President has consistently responded by saying he needed more time. Consequently, Kabila currently remains in office under a transitional deal.
Moreover, the 251 victims are a serious warning about Congo’s deeply troubled situation. According to the Guardian, the UN has urged Kabila’s government to make sure “those who organised, recruited and armed the Bana Mura or other militias are identified and prosecuted.” However, to prevent further atrocities, a mere investigation is not enough, instead, other urgent measures must be taken.
Meanwhile, the chaotic situation and tensions among different factions are largely linked with domestic political upheaval. Hence, to achieve political stability, it is crucial for regional and international partners to halt the bloodshed immediately. A peaceful environment is not only vital for the function of international charitable organizations, but also for a successful democratic election. To let all Congolese people acknowledge their government, democracy must be put back to place. As well, whatever the election result might be, President Kabila must realize that only peace and democracy could lead the innocent and struggling people to prosperity and happiness.
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