Cyprus Mail

Hundreds dead as Congo forces target civilians, deny UN access

Civilians gather to witness a security operation near the residence of Ne Muanda Nsemi, a member of parliament and leader of Bundu dia Kongo (BDK), in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa, March 3, 2017. Picture taken March 3, 2017. REUTERS/Robert Carrubba

By Aaron Ross

GOVERNMENT forces have targeted civilians, including women and children, resulting in numerous deaths in central Congo this week and are restricting United Nations peacekeepers’ access to the area, the country’s U.N. mission said on Saturday.

Amid mounting accusations of violence against civilians, Congolese authorities on Saturday announced they had charged seven soldiers in connection with a video last month appearing to show army troops massacring suspected militia members.

Democratic Republic of Congo’s army is carrying out operations against the Kamuina Nsapu militia. Clashes between the military and the insurgents have killed hundreds of people and displaced hundreds of thousands since last August.

Militia violence in Congo, a tinder box of conflicts over land, ethnicity and minerals, has been worsened by President Joseph Kabila’s failure to step down when his elected mandate expired in December.

The U.N. mission, Monusco, said it had received “credible reports of high numbers of deaths” this week in Kananga, the capital of Kasai-Central province, adding that security forces have restricted the mission’s freedom of movement.

“I call for the immediate cessation of violence in Kananga and the Kasai region, and denounce the use of disproportionate force,” Monusco chief Maman Sidikou said in a statement.

“I further call for an investigation by the appropriate authorities into events in Kananga in recent days, and that those found responsible for any human rights violations be held fully accountable,” Sidikou added.

The statement also criticised Kamuina Nsapu militiamen for attacking state institutions and symbols.

In an interview on Friday, government spokesman Lambert Mende denied that the army used excessive force and said local authorities could be blocking access to express frustration with what the government says is the mission’s condescending attitude.

The United Nations has repeatedly accused government troops of using disproportionate force in clashes with the lightly armed Kamuina Nsapu militants. Last month’s video, which circulated on social media, appeared to show soldiers executing suspected militia members at point blank range.

The military’s top prosecutor, Major General Joseph Ponde, told reporters in the capital Kinshasa on Saturday that charges against the seven soldiers include the war crimes of murder, mutilation and cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Ponde added that investigators plan to exhume two graves identified near the site of the alleged massacre in order to identify the victims, and have asked for Monusco’s assistance.

Two U.N. officials, one U.S. citizen and the other of Swedish nationality, were kidnapped by unknown assailants in Kasai-Central this week.

Related posts

World record holder Tirop found stabbed to death

Reuters News Service

Tanzania’s Gurnah, novelist of colonialism and refuge, wins 2021 Nobel

Reuters News Service

Moderna plans African vaccine plant as drugmakers urged to help poorest

Reuters News Service

Lava blasts out of new vent on La Palma volcano

Reuters News Service

WHO employees took part in Congo sex abuse during Ebola crisis, report says

Reuters News Service

Airport closed as La Palma volcano eruption intensifies

Reuters News Service