Restoring peace: Bring an end to the violence in Eastern DRC

STRINGER / ANADOLU AGENCY / Anadolu Agency via AFP

Paris - Kinshasa - Nairobi, 1 August 2022. On 26 July, demonstrations that spread to several towns in North Kivu degenerated into attacks on UN staff. At least 19 people were killed and 61 injured, both among staff and demonstrators. On 31 July, two soldiers from MONUSCO’s Intervention Brigade Force opened fire in Kasindi, killing two people. Horrified, FIDH and its member organisations condemn this unspeakable violence, these attacks against the UN force, as well as the behaviour of those responsible for the shootings a few days later. De-escalation and dialogue are the only possible ways to stop the violence and restore peace.
Read the note on the state of the human rights situation in the country, about one year before President Felix Tshisekedi’s first term comes to a close in 2023

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Association africaine de défense des droits de l’homme (ASADHO), the Groupe Lotus, and the Ligue des Électeurs, strongly condemn the violence committed against the population in the east of the country and call on the Congolese government, international partners, and civil society to mobilise to fight against the impunity of the violations perpetrated and for the return of peace in the region.

In view of the events of 26 July, our organisations call for the establishment, as a matter of urgency, of a transparent joint commission of inquiry to establish the truth about the murder of the three UN peacekeepers and conduct a joint investigation with the Congolese government regarding the origin of the terrible shooting that killed some 15 civilians during the demonstrations. We also underscore the need to guarantee accountability for the perpetrators of the events in Kasindi through an immediate investigation.

Our organisations relay the call for calm shared by Congolese civil society organisations, which is part of a context of mistrust towards foreign forces. While MONUSCO’s gradual and phased withdrawal plan was signed in September 2021, many accuse the international organisation of ineffectiveness in the fight against dozens of local and foreign armed groups that have been destabilising the region for nearly 30 years.

We express our deep concern and disagreement with the decision taken in June 2022 by the leaders of the East African Community (EAC) to create a new regional force to combat armed groups in Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu. Placed under the military command of Kenya, it should be operational in the coming weeks. Far from providing a sustainable response, previous military responses have, each time, demonstrated their inability to restore peace. On the contrary, they have contributed to worsening insecurity, the feeling of mistrust and the human rights situation in eastern DRC. The main victims of this ongoing violence are always the civilian population.

"Civil society and local populations fear the reopening of the wounds caused by the occupation and want to put an end to the cycles of intervention by foreign armies, which under the guise of restoring peace, have led in the past to cycles of violence against the civilian population," said Drissa Traoré, secretary general of FIDH.

"Today, the priority must be to break the cycle of impunity by setting up thorough and independent investigations to shed light on the violations suffered by the population, to identify the perpetrators and to determine who is responsible."

Drissa Traoré, secretary general of FIDH

Without further delay, the Congolese government must acknowledge its responsibilities. The state of siege in the provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, administered by the army since May 2021, has failed. Far from restoring calm, the situation has deteriorated and numerous cases of abuse and violations of fundamental rights and public freedoms continue to be committed by all parties involved in the conflicts. Our organisations are concerned about the inadequacy of the Congolese government’s response and the continued activity of armed groups - the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and fighters from the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) - and the resurgence of attacks by the March 23 Movement (M23). These groups are regularly responsible for serious human rights violations against the populations living in these areas. Since mid-June 2022, no fewer than 29 civilians have been executed by M23 rebels.

Our organisations call on the Congolese authorities, as part of their urgent efforts to restore peace and security in the east, to define appropriate, comprehensive strategies for action, focused on the protection of civilians and in strict conformity with international humanitarian law and human rights.

Our organisations are particularly concerned by the restrictions on democratic space, especially in the provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, as well as the resumption of arbitrary arrests and detentions by the National Intelligence Agency.They call for an end to attacks on journalists and civil society, such as those currently suffered in North Kivu by Henry Hererimana Serushago, a reporter with La Voix de Mikeno (RACOM).

With general elections scheduled for 2023, it is essential that all the conditions for a genuine, inclusive, transparent and peaceful political dialogue be met to contribute to a credible, fair electoral process that respects democratic principles and human rights.

"The Congolese government must not only do everything possible to allow the organisation of elections in accordance with constitutional deadlines."

Paul Nsapu, FIDH vice president

"It must also ensure that the civic and democratic space is strengthened, while respecting the fundamental freedoms of the Congolese people and the regional and international commitments made by the Congolese State in this area," said Paul Nsapu.

We call on international partners and organisations, most notably the African Union and the United Nations, to convey the call for calm and dialogue while continuing to encourage the Congolese government to ensure the protection of civilians in eastern DRC and to continue its efforts to ensure respect for the rule of law and human rights throughout the country.

Read the note on the state of the human rights situation in the country, about one year before President Felix Tshisekedi’s first term comes to a close in 2023.

Read more
statement