Hundreds dead in new DRC ethnic conflict

A new UN report was released March 11 detailing violent ethnic attacks in December, leading to hundreds of deaths in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A UN special investigative mission sent to the Yumbi territory, in the country's west, confirmed at least 535 deaths, including women and children—but found that the death toll may be even higher, as it was reported that bodies were thrown in the Congo River. The report also said some 19,000 people were displaced, many across the border into the neighboring Republic of Congo.

The violence broke out Dec. 16, sparked by a dispute involving the burial of a Banunu chief. Batende villagers armed with firearms and other weapons began attacking people in the streets. Some reports detailed victims being asked if they were Banunu, while others detailed beheadings and sexual violence. The report found that the violence could amount to crimes against humanity. The UN has urged the prosecution of the perpetrators and expressed concern about a new escalation in violence.

From Jurist, March 12. Used with permission.

Note: The attacks took place two weeks before national elections in the DRC. A local activist told Reuters that Batende leaders supported Congo's ruling coalition while Banunu leaders backed opposition candidates, although the UN investigators established no clear link.

Photo: UNHCR via Africa Times