BFF-68 UN probe accuses DR Congo troops, militia of ‘crimes against humanity’

ZCZC

BFF-68

DRCONGO-UNREST-RIGHTS-UN

UN probe accuses DR Congo troops, militia of ‘crimes against humanity’

GENEVA, June 26, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – UN investigators on Tuesday accused the
security forces and militia fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo
(DRC) of committing crimes against humanity in the country’s restive Kasai
region.

The probe was established by the United Nations Human Rights Council last
year to investigate abuses in Kasai, which was plunged into violence in
September 2016 after government troops killed a local chieftain, Kamwina
Nsapu.

The chieftain was opposed to the Kinshasa government and now rebels
fighting in his name are battling government forces and a pro-government
militia called the Bana Mura.

“Some of the abuses committed by the defense and security forces, the Bana
Mura militia and the Kamwina Nsapu militia constitute crimes against humanity
(and) war crimes,” the investigators said.

The report will be presented to the rights council next month.

It accused both government troops and militia members of targeting
civilians in a “systematic or widespread manner,” highlighting atrocities
that include murder, mutilation, rape, sexual “enslavement” and other
“inhuman acts”.

“A very serious problem of impunity persists, given the scale and gravity
of these crimes,” added the investigators, who were granted access to Kasai
to conduct the probe.

The unrest in Kasai has claimed more than 3,000 lives and displaced some
1.4 million people from their homes, according to the Roman Catholic church,
although this estimate is months old and an accurate picture of the conflict
is notoriously hard to come by.

The crisis is the latest in what has proven to been one of Africa’s most
troubled nations, which has been devastated by two regional wars and
countless rebel insurgencies since the mid-1990s.

The new report came as the country’s bishops on Tuesday called for a “rapid
and massive intervention” to save children facing starvation during the dry
season in Kasai.

Archbishop Marcel Madila warned that “if the children are not helped now,
we risk thousands of deaths,” in a statement issued by Catholic charity
Caritas.

The charity cited statistics by the UN’s children’s agency Unicef showing
that at least 770,000 children under five in the region suffer from acute
malnutrition, 400,000 of whom are facing the threat of death.

– Ethnic violence –

The UN human rights report on Tuesday also noted that the violence in Kasai
has become increasingly ethnically motivated since early last year.

It said that some of the violations committed by the Bana Mura militias
against members of the Luba ethnic group and attacks by the Kamwina Nsapu
against the Tshokwe and Pende ethnic groups could be termed “persecution on
ethnic grounds,” amounting to crimes against humanity.

The investigators called on President Joseph Kabila’s government to
immediately pursue policies to disarm the militias and promote reconciliation
in Kasai.

But urging Kabila to diffuse the crisis may prove fruitless.

Many accuse him of intensifying DRC’s numerous challenges by refusing to
stand down when his term presidential expired in 2016.

Observers have warned that the country could careen out of control if
Kabila seeks a third term in December in defiance of constitutional limits —
or if the vote is postponed for a third time.

BSS/AFP/MRI/2200 hrs