24 June 2017

Congo-Kinshasa: Crisis in DR Congo Worsens As Death Toll Rises and Refugees Flee

Photo: Joseph Mankamba / OCHA-RDC
People returning to the village of Kasala, in the province of Kasai, in the DRC, await food distribution.

The UN estimates that more than 3,300 have been killed, and 1.3 million forced to flee violence since last August. Meanwhile, neighboring Angola has expelled 8,000 Congolese refugees seeking an escape from the violence.

A special adviser to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the Congolese government to reduce its military presence in the violence-plagued Kasai region because of an explosion of deadly violence over the past several months.

More than 3,300 people have been killed in an eight-month spiral of violence in the region. The UN Human Rights Council voted Friday to send a team of experts to investigate reports of gross human rights violations, including beheadings.

"It's vital to reduce the militarization of the government's response and to prioritize dialogue between all parties in the conflict," Adama Dieng, UN special adviser on the prevention of genocide told reporters in Kinshasa.

"There is no genocide in the Kasai," Dieng said. "There is violence that needs to stop as quickly as possible."

Violence erupted in the region after a local tribal leader, who was rebelling against the authority of President Joseph Kabila, was killed during clashes with security forces in August 2016.

The death of the local chief, known as Kamwina Nsapu, sparked a wave of unrest that has forced 1.3 million people from their homes, according to the UN.

Dieng called on Congolese officials to "significantly increase efforts" to identify and punish those guilty of committing human rights violations.

Refugees expelled from Angola

Meanwhile, neighboring Angola has expelled more than 8,000 Congolese who entered the southern African country while fleeing deadly violence at home, the UN said in a new report.

It said more than 30,000 Congolese have fled to Angola since violence erupted in central Kasai last summer.

The report also estimated that militias have used about 500 girls and boys as fighters or "human shields."

Aid access to the region has been limited by the violence, according to the UN.

Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano announced Saturday that Italy will contribute 300,000 euros ($335,000) to UN efforts to "respond to the dramatic humanitarian emergency" in central Kasai to help Congolese refugees in Angola, the Italian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Alfano said the money would go towards health care, food security, education and "promoting the reliance of the vulnerable refugee populations."

The minister said the aid aims to "ease the burden that weighs on the Angolan government in assuring assistance and protection to the refugee population."

The UN said its overall emergency aid appeal of $64 million for the Kasai crisis "remains poorly funded." The UN refugee agency has requested $6 million to help the Congolese refugees in Angola.

bik/sms (AFP. AP)

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