Congo Army Involved in Attacks on Civilians, Group Says
Members of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s army have been involved in attacks on civilians in the country’s northeast that have left more than 500 people dead since 2014, the Congo Research Group said.
Congo’s government and the United Nations previously blamed the assaults on the Allied Democratic Forces, an insurgent group originally based in Uganda that has operated along Congo’s border since the late 1990’s.
“Our preliminary findings indicate that responsibility does not lie with the ADF alone,” the New York-based group said Monday in a report. “In addition to commanders directly tied to the ADF, members of the national army” along with other rebel groups and militias “have also been involved in attacks on the civilian population,” it said. The organization based its findings on 110 interviews conducted in the region.
Congolese army spokesman Leon Richard Kasonga didn’t immediately respond to calls seeking comment. The military spokesman for the UN mission, Amouzon Codjo Martin, said he hadn’t seen the report and couldn’t comment yet on the allegations.
Dozens of armed groups remain active in eastern Congo more than a decade after the end of a civil war that left at least 5 million people dead. Despite the presence of approximately 20,000 UN peacekeepers in the country and a successful joint offensive by the UN and Congolese army against a rebellion in 2013, violence against civilians is common. In the past two years, some of the worst fighting has occurred around the northeastern town of Beni and been attributed to the ADF.
Violence intensified in eastern Congo in recent months, “an alarming trend that requires our urgent attention,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a speech in New York on Monday. At least 7.5 million people in the country need humanitarian assistance, including more than 1.5 million who have fled their homes, he said.
The UN is also concerned that there’s a risk of election-related violence in the central African country, which is scheduled to hold a presidential vote in November.
The Congo Research Group is headed by Jason Stearns, a former UN Group of Experts member and senior fellow at the New York-based Center on International Cooperation.
The UN Security Council will this month renew the mandate of the peacekeeping mission, the largest in the world. The UN “should reflect on the wisdom of its collaboration with the Congolese army, which is often as much as a problem as it is part of the solution,” Stearns said in an e-mailed statement.
This article was originally published by Bloomberg News on March 21, 2016