Fighting in Congo Has Killed More Than 3,300 People Since OctoberBy
Government rejects UN call for international investigation
State-backed militia killing women and children, UN says
Fighting between security forces and militia members in central Democratic Republic of Congo killed more than 3,300 people since October, the country’s Catholic Church said, as the government rejected a call by the United Nations for an international investigation.
At least 3,383 people died and 20 villages were completely destroyed in the Kasai-Central region, the church said Tuesday in a report based on information from parishes in the area. Congo’s national army, which has been accused by the UN of human-rights violations, was responsible for destroying 10 of those villages, it said.
Congolese army spokesman General Leon Richard Kasonga didn’t answer his phone when Bloomberg called seeking comment.
The church’s death toll is a significant increase on previous UN estimates that hundreds of people have died in the violence. The church is one of the only institutions with a presence across the Kasai region, an area with poor infrastructure often ignored by the central government and investors. Thirty mass graves have also been reported, it said.
The UN’s top human rights official has called for a probe into the killings, including the deaths of two UN researchers. The U.S. citizen and Swedish national were executed in March while researching the violence in Kasai-Central province. The government completed a probe into the deaths in May, blaming members of a militia known as Kamuina Nsapu, but the U.S. government, among others, has said it isn’t satisfied and that further investigation is needed.
Hacked to death
Since then the situation has “deteriorated dramatically and various actors are fueling ethnic hatred, resulting in extremely grave, widespread and apparently planned attacks against the civilian population,” UN Human Rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein told the Human Rights Council Tuesday in Geneva.
In addition to attacks by the Congolese army and Kamuina Nsapu, an allegedly government-backed militia, known as the Bana Mura, has shot, burned, hacked to death and mutilated hundreds of villagers in the past two months, Zeid said.
“My team saw children as young as two whose limbs had been chopped off; many babies had machete wounds and severe burns,” he said.
The government would accept assistance from the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the country, but Congo must run any investigation, government spokesman Lambert Mende told reporters Tuesday in the capital, Kinshasa.
“Congo is not disposed to accept the idea of the deployment on its sovereign territory of an international commission of inquiry, which would work in private and parallel to our judicial authorities as if Congo has become a void state,” he said. “It is totally rejected.”