from JEAN KASSONGO in Kinshasa, DRC
KINSHASA, (CAJ News) – AT least 40 people have been killed during the latest outbreak of ethnic clashes in the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The violence in the Ituri province have also involved kidnappings, rape and burning of homes, especially in the Djugu and Irumu territories.
United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) estimates that at least 40 000 people have fled Djugu and another 30 000 fled Irumu.
This week, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that relentless violence in Ituri has resulted in at least 175 grave violations perpetrated against children since January.
This includes recruitment to armed groups, killing and maiming, sexual violence and attacks on schools.
Most of the attacks, since April 9, have been attributed to ethnic Lendu armed groups collectively known as the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO).
CODECO and its affiliates have also been implicated in the killing and rape of hundreds of civilians during the first half of 2020.
After a government military offensive resulted in the killing of CODECO’s leader, Ngudjolo Duduko Justin, during March 2020, fighters engaged in widespread reprisals against civilian populations in Ituri.
His death also led to deadly in-fighting for control of the movement.
CODECO is also of potential crimes against humanity for its role in inter-communal violence between ethnic Lendu and Hema communities that resulted in 700 people being killed between December 2017 and September 2019.
Jaclyn Streitfeld-Hall, Publications Director at the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, said populations in Ituri, including the more than 1,6 million people displaced by past violence, need ongoing protection from armed groups.
“The government must urgently address the situation in Ituri and actively prevent a resurgence of ethnic targeting and atrocities,” the official said.
– CAJ News