Gunmen kill six Congo cops as UN probes Ituri crimes

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Armed men have attacked the Congolese National Police office (PNC) in Ituri Province killing six police officers.

The attack was confirmed by Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) on Thursday morning.

“An armed attack on the General Staff of the Irumu (Ituri) caused the death of 6 Congolese police officers,” the army said.

The forces said the research is currently in progress to determine the identities of the attackers and extent of casualties.

Victoria University

UN director visits

The Director of the Joint United Nations Office for Human Rights, Abdoul Aziz Thioye, paid a brief visit to Bunia in Ituri on Tuesday January 14, 2020, in order to meet the local authorities and the population after the publication, 4 days earlier, in Geneva, Switzerland, of the report on violence in the Djugu Territory by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

This violence, which occurred between “December 2017 and September 2019, had claimed 701 victims, 168 injured and caused 142 victims of sexual violence, in the context of inter-ethnic tensions between the Lendu and Hema communities,” notes the report.

From the start, Abdoul Aziz Thioye wanted to be clear: “  this report is not directed against a specific community. Criminal responsibility is not collective but rather individual. It is not a community that is stigmatized, but individuals, who belong to a community, and who have been guilty of atrocities and acts of barbarism that could constitute crimes against humanity  ”, a- he clarified in front of the press, whom he met at the MONUSCO Conference Room in Bunia.

Criminal responsibility is not collective but rather individual.

Responding to criticisms that the report does not satisfy either community, or that it appears to have underestimated the scale of the violence, the Director of the Joint United Nations Human Rights Office in the DRC said that it was primarily a human rights report and not a judicial inquiry.

He added: ”  We are able to provide evidence of everything we are advancing in this report. The toll of these atrocities may be higher as some would argue, but we have only reported what we have been able to document. ”

Justice, development, stabilization and reconciliation

Much blood has flowed in the Djugu Territory. Also, for the United Nations, in addition to the necessary justice, efforts must now also be turned towards development, stabilization and community reconciliation.

This is the meaning of the support that MONUSCO brings to the efforts of the provincial and national authorities with a view to pacifying Djugu and Ituri in general, so that peace is established in hearts and between communities.

Thus, under the auspices of the Provincial Government of Ituri, in 2019 alone, MONUSCO facilitated the organization of 6 community dialogues in the Djugu Territory (Fataki, Nizi, Drodro, Lita …), including the different communities, and subsequently, a large awareness campaign within the Lendu community.

These activities have enabled the communities to maintain communication between them and reduce the scale of the violence in this Territory. As another impact of these dialogues, the participants were able to identify the causes of the violence and agreed on possible solutions to restore stability in their Territory.

The report on the violence in Djugu makes other recommendations which go in the direction, in particular, of the peaceful resolution of conflicts, awareness campaigns, community reconciliation to promote “living together”, demobilization, transitional justice, etc.

He calls on the Congolese authorities to address the roots of the conflicts and to identify the main perpetrators of the violence in Ituri so that they can answer for their actions before the justice system.

It is also one of the objectives of this report which, for the Director of the Joint United Nations Office for Human Rights, is an advocacy tool. ”  No one will be able to say … I did not know  ,” he concluded.

In Ituri Province, the FARDC launched, since June 21, 2019, the military operation called “Ituri Storm” which made it possible to liberate several localities in the hands of unidentified armed men.

Despite these results, the geographic coverage by loyalist forces remains low, allowing unidentified armed men and armed groups to continue to carry out incursions into villages and spontaneous sites of displaced persons (Duko and Rho in the territory of Djugu).

These attacks caused new displacements from these sites to other villages and sites including Katoto, Telega, Luvangire, Sesele, Mutumbi, and Bunia.

The continuation of attacks on the sites of the displaced by armed men risks causing yet another massive displacement to Bunia and the surrounding villages of Bunia.

This would further increase the humanitarian needs in these reception areas.

Crimes against humanity

Hundreds of people have been killed or raped in attacks on the Hema ethnic group in eastern DR Congo’s Ituri province, in what “may amount to crimes against humanity” or even genocide, the UN said on Friday.

“At least 701 people have been killed and 168 injured during inter-ethnic tensions between the Hema and Lendu communities, in the territories of Djugu and Mahagi, from December 2017 to September 2019,” the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJRHO) said.

“In addition, at least 142 people have been subjected to acts of sexual violence.

“Most of the victims are members of the Hema community.”

Since February last year, nearly 57,000 people have taken refuge in Uganda and more than 556,000 have fled to neighbouring regions, according to UN figures.

The investigation said armed Lendu groups became more organised from September 2018 and escalated their attacks.

There were also acts of reprisal by some members of the Hema community between 2017 and 2018, including the burning of villages and isolated attacks targeting the Lendu, it added.

The report also pointed the finger at the Democratic Republic of Congo’s security forces.

Two policemen and two soldiers have been convicted by DRC courts.

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