Rebels massacre 57 people in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

 Aerial view of a village in the Ituri Province Aerial view of a village in the Ituri Province Photo by Kimja Vanderheyden on iStock

31 May 2021

At least 57 people have been massacred by rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces in the Ituri Province, in eastern Democratic Republic Congo

Local officials have confirmed the death of 57 people in overnight  attacks on two villages in the south-east of Bunia, in the territory of Imuru, in the Ituri Province, located in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Although the Congolese army has yet to communicate the identity of the attackers, officials have attributed the massacre to rebel groups of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) operating in eastern DRC and  Uganda.

Decades of political instability in the DRC have brought about weak governance, with areas of the country controlled by rebel militias that have subject civilians to mass atrocities such as rape and sexual violence, arbitrary executions, and extreme poverty. The DRC also ranks as one of the countries with the biggest rate of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Indeed, according to estimates by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the number of IDPs in the DRC amounts to around 4.5 million. The eastern part of the country, comprising the Ituri, Kasai, and Kivu regions, is facing particular instability and violence, being under the control of rebel militias. It is precisely in these areas that mass killings have recently resumed, as indicated by the massacre of 57 people in the Ituri Province, along with the torching of 25 houses. The number of people killed in the attacks could be even higher than the reported casualties, as authorities have confirmed that several people are still missing in the villages where the attacks took place.

In early May, the president of the DRC, Felix Tshisekedi, declared the regions of North-Kivu and Ituri under siege and ordered the military to take control. The imposition of martial law in these two regions has been criticized by Human Rights Watch as this gives the military the authority to restrict people’s movements, search homes, ban publications and meetings, and arrest people for disrupting public order. Therefore, despite authorities’ reassurance that international human rights and humanitarian law will be respected, the new military control could open the door to another wave of widespread violations of civilians’ human rights.


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Author: Carla Leonetti; Editor: Eleonora Gonnelli

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