A “state of siege” has been declared in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The country’s president, Felix Tshisekedi, made the decision following escalating violence in the provinces of Ituri and North Kivu.
In an announcement last Friday, government spokesperson Patrick Muyaya explained “The objective is to swiftly end the insecurity which is killing our fellow citizens in that part of the country on a daily basis.” Over 300 people have died in attacks by armed groups and other violence since January.
This comes after last Monday’s announcement by Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde that a state of emergency could be declared, “replacing the civil administration with a military administration.” Then on Thursday President Tshisekedi announced that he was preparing “radical measures” to address the violence in the east.
Tshisekedi currently heads the African Union. Whilst visiting Paris this Tuesday to discuss the crisis in Chad, he also asked for France to help in “eradicating” the armed group Allied Democratic Forces out of Beni, North Kivu.
There are believed to be 122 armed groups operating in the Ituri and North Kivu region, including the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), who are believed to be at fault for much of the recent violence. The ADF were formed in Uganda in the 1990s where they were categorised a terrorist organisation. They committed a series of brutal attacks against civilians, following army operations targeting the ADF beginning in late 2019. Over 1.6 million of the Ituri province’s 5.7 million people have been displaced by the fighting, according to UNICEF, with 2.8 million people there requiring some emergency assistance.
The conflict led dozens of students to camp outside the Beni town hall in North Kivu last week, demanding the removal of MONUSCO, a UN peacekeeping force, for failing to stop rebel attacks. They also campaigned for President Tshisekedi to come visit the region. The protest was broken up on Friday by police and soldiers, using tear gas and whips. Colonel François Makosa Kabeya, Beni’s chief of police, disagrees: “We have been with these children for close to a week. We did not brutalise them and won’t be doing so.“
In February, the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office warned that an increasing number of violations carried out by the army and security forces could be tantamount to crimes against humanity.
Philip English, is a member of the YCL’s Manchester Branch