The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Tuesday said it was alarmed by the ongoing atrocities carried out by armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which have become part of a systematic pattern to disrupt civilians’ lives, instill fear and create havoc.
According to data from UNHCR partners, in 2020, more than 2,000 civilians were killed in the three eastern provinces (1,240 in Ituri, 590 in North Kivu and 261 in South Kivu). The majority of these attacks were attributed to armed groups.
The UN Agency says that the killings and kidnappings have continued in North Kivu in 2021, where attacks have also been directed against displaced civilians. On 24 January, an armed group killed two men and seriously injured six others in an incursion into a site for forcibly displaced people in North Kivu’s Masisi Territory.
A week prior to the recent attack, three people living in Kivuye displacement site in Masisi Territory were kidnapped during raids by an armed group. This group has also imposed a 7 p.m. curfew in the area, after which they visit the residents’ houses to force ‘security’ payments.
UNHCR says it has received reports of armed groups forcibly occupying schools and homes, prohibiting school activities, and attacking health centers, in Mweso, Masisi Territory and Lubero Territory.
In November 2020, armed groups introduced illegal taxes on people who want to access their farms in their villages of origin in Rutshuru Territory. This has cut off many from their only source of food and income.
The displaced people cannot afford to pay these imposed taxes as they have no income, thereby compounding the situation.
In a press statement, UNHCR said it is calling on all actors to respect the civilian and humanitarian character of displacement sites and is advocating for swift and independent investigations into the crimes committed so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice.