Murder and rape amid the ethnic conflict in Congo’s eastern Ituri province could constitute crimes against humanity, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said on Friday.
“No fewer than 701 people have been killed and 168 injured in conflict between the Hema and Lendu communities between December 2017 and September.
In addition, no fewer than 42 people suffered sexual violence, , adding that most of the victims are from the Hema community.
“Since September 2018, Lendu armed groups have increasingly become more organized in carrying out attacks against the Hema and members of other ethnic groups,’’ the UNHCR said in a press statement.
According to the OHCHR, the investigation documents numerous cases of rape, murder of children, maiming and beheading as well as the looting and burning of villages.
The “barbarity” of the attacks which have the objective of wresting control of land and resources could contain elements of crimes against humanity.
The Hema and Lendu have a history of inter-communal violence in the region.
The UN refugee agency said over 600,000 people has been displaced because of fighting between them.
“Army and police forces deployed since February 2018 have failed to curb the violence, with many in the security forces committing abuses themselves,’’ the report stated.
The UN has urged the east African country to address the root causes of the violence.
Eastern Congo is beset by various crises, including active rebel groups and an Ebola outbreak that has killed over 2,000 people.
Edited by: Abiodun Oluleye/Hadiza Mohammed-Aliyu
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