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UNHCR alarmed by armed atrocities in eastern DRC

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UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is alarmed by the ongoing atrocities carried out by armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which have become part of a systematic pattern to disrupt the civilians lives, instill fear and create havoc.

In 2020, UNHCR partners recorded a record of more than 2,000 civilian deaths in the three eastern provinces (1,240 in Ituri, 590 in North Kivu and 261 in South Kivu). Most of these attacks were attributed to armed groups.

Killings and kidnappings continued in North Kivu in 2021, where attacks have also targeted displaced civilians. On 24 January, an armed group killed two men and seriously wounded six others in a raid on a site for forcibly displaced persons in the Masisi Territory of North Kivu.

A week before the recent attack, three people living in the Kivuye displaced persons site in Masisi territory, which is supported by UNHCR, were abducted during raids by an armed group. This group has also imposed a 7:00 p.m. curfew in the area, after which they visit neighbors’ houses to force ‘security’ payments.

UNHCR and its partners have heard numerous testimonies from people who have survived this targeted violence. Between December 2020 and January 2021, at least seven incursions by armed groups have been reported at five different sites in Masisi territory.

More than 88,000 displaced people reside in 22 sites supported by UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Many others live in spontaneous places, while around 90% stay in host communities.

Attacks by armed groups are carried out under suspicion of collaboration with other groups or with the Congolese security forces. Some of these sites are threatened by multiple armed groups. Civilians are caught in the middle of clashes between different groups.

UNHCR has received reports of armed groups forcibly occupying schools and homes, banning 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 home villages in Rutshuru territory. This has isolated many from their only source of food and income. Displaced people cannot afford to pay these taxes as they have no income, which exacerbates the situation.

While the Congolese army’s military operations against militia groups are more successful than in the past, the armed forces do not have the ability to maintain control of the areas they secure, leaving room for armed actors to reclaim those areas. and prevail over them. local people.

UNHCR urges all actors to respect the civil and humanitarian character of places of displacement and advocates for swift and independent investigations of crimes committed so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice.

UNHCR is working together with local authorities and communities to protect civilians in affected areas by strengthening local capacity and creating synergies between different local authorities and grassroots initiatives. We are also closely monitoring the situation in most areas through local and international partners.

More than five million people have been uprooted by insecurity and violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the past two years, with nearly two million displaced in North Kivu province alone, according to UN estimates. UNHCR’s efforts to help internally displaced persons face severe funding gaps. So far, only six percent of the US $ 195 million that UNHCR needs for its vital operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been funded.

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