The Guardian | Published: Thursday, 25 January, 2018
Findings deepen concerns about escalating violence in country hit by political and ethnic unrest
Jason Burke Africa correspondent
“State agents” in the Democratic Republic of the Congo carried out 1,176 extrajudicial killings last year, according to a report published by the United Nations mission in the central African country.
The report says at least 89 women and 213 children were among the dead. The number of extrajudicial killings had tripled over the past two years, and Congolese armed forces were responsible for 64% of the total, the UN said.
The findings will deepen international concern about the growing violence in the DRC, where there has been political and ethnic unrest and where militia groups have carried out attacks.
On Sunday security forces shot dead at least six people and wounded dozens more as they fired teargas to disperse demonstrations organised by the Catholic church. The protest was the latest in a series since President Joseph Kabila refused to step down at the end of his mandate in December 2016.
Scores of people have been killed and hundreds arrested in Kinshasa, the capital, and elsewhere during the crackdown. The exact number of detentions is unclear but may be as high as 600.
The Catholic church has taken a leading role in recent months in organising and unifying opposition to Kabila’s continued rule. On New Year’s Eve, Congolese forces killed at least seven people in Kinshasa during a protest by Catholic activists.
Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo, the head of the church in the DRC, on Tuesday condemned the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. “How can you kill men, women, children, youths and old people all chanting religious songs, carrying Bibles, rosaries and crucifixes? Are we now living in an open prison?” Monsengwo asked.
Across the country, the UN recorded a total of 6,497 human rights violations and abuses in 2017, a rise of more than 25% over 2016, which itself saw a 30% rise over 2015.
The UN said the rise in arbitrary killings last year was mainly explained by instability in three provinces constituting the Kasai region, where at least 752 people were killed.
The violence in Kasai erupted after a tribal chief known as the Kamwina Nsapu, who rebelled against Kabila’s government, was killed in August 2016. More than 3,000 people have died and 1.4 million have been displaced since then.
The recent protests have raised diplomatic tensions between Kinshasa and Europe. The former colonial power, Belgium, and France, the UK, the US and Canada have condemned the recent killing of protesters.
Under a deal mediated by the church between Kabila and his opponents, the president was to step down at the end of last year, paving the way for an election early this year. But he reneged and the poll has been repeatedly delayed. It is now scheduled for December.