Rights groups urge probe into bloodshed in DRC Kasai

2017-06-01 16:57
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Kinshasa - International and local rights groups called on the UN on Thursday to open an urgent inquiry into the months-long violence that has swept central Democratic Republic of Congo, leaving over a million homeless.

"The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) should urgently establish a commission of inquiry into the situation in the central Kasai region," said a coalition of 262 Congolese and nine international NGOs, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

The central Kasai region has seen a major spike in violence since September when government forces killed a tribal chief and militia leader called Kamwina Nsapu who had rebelled against President Joseph Kabila.

Since it began, the unrest has claimed more than 400 lives and forced more than 1.2 million people from their homes, UN figures show. Unconfirmed local figures put the number of dead as high as 3 000.

The UN has also reported finding 40 mass graves, with two of its researchers investigating the violence abducted and killed.

"The violence in the Kasai region has caused immense suffering, with Congolese authorities unable or unwilling to stop the carnage or hold those responsible for the abuses to account," said Ida Sawyer, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

"An independent, international investigation is needed to document the abuses, identify those responsible, and help ensure justice for the victims."

The NGOs' call came just days ahead of an HRC meeting in Geneva that begins on June 6.

'Don't expect anything' 

In May, the UN Security Council expressed doubts about Kinshasa's ability to independently probe the murder of the UN experts.

Last week, the Congolese public prosecutor said he was investigating allegations that former development minister Clement Kanku may have been linked to the murders.

"We cannot expect anything from such national investigations," Rostin Manketa, who heads the Kinshasa-based rights group Voice of the Voiceless, told AFP.

Kabila himself went to Kasai on Tuesday on his first trip there since the violence erupted.

On Monday, the European Union also expressed deep concern, saying the crisis in Kasai "has reached an exceptional level in security and humanitarian terms and as regards human rights."

It also imposed sanctions on nine Congolese officials, including the intelligence chief and several ministers, some of whom are accused of serious rights violations in Kasai.

The UN children's fund has warned that the violence has put nearly 400 000 children at risk of dying of hunger in Kasai due to disrupted food supplies.

The unrest has also sent thousands of people fleeing to neighbouring Angola where UN figures in mid-May showed some 20 000 people were sheltering.

Tensions have also been mounting across the vast mineral-rich nation of 71 million people since Kabila refused to step down at the end of his mandate in December.

Read more on:    joseph ­kabila  |  drc  |  central africa

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