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Communal violence perpetrated between June 2022 and March 2023 in the territory of Kwamouth (Mai-Ndombe) left at least 300 dead during cycles of attacks and reprisals, informs Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a rapport published this Thursday, March 30.
“Villagers from predominantly Teke and Yaka communities, both embroiled in a dispute over customary land tenure and access to land, have damaged, destroyed, looted and burned hundreds of homes as well as schools and centers health. Some members of the Congolese security forces deployed to stem the violence have allegedly committed abuses, including extrajudicial executions, looting and sexual violence,” the report notes.
According to the NGO, the government did not reinforce the manpower of the provincial security forces, however overstretched, before September, and did not provide adequate assistance to the more than 50,000 people displaced by the violence.
“Congolese authorities should take urgent steps to protect civilians in the west of the country from further attacks and uphold the rule of law. Bringing those responsible for the deadly violence in Kwamouth to justice and addressing the underlying grievances is crucial,” said Thomas Fessy, senior Democratic Republic of Congo researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Human Rights Watch’s findings are based on research missions to the cities of Bandundu and Maluku, conducted in November and December, respectively, as well as interviews conducted in person and by telephone in Kinshasa.
Human Rights Watch says it spoke to 70 people, including 31 survivors and witnesses of the attacks, relatives of the victims, judicial officials, lawyers, aid workers, civil society activists, religious leaders, members of parliament provincial and national officials, members of the security forces and United Nations personnel, as well as provincial and national officials.
The government, the report recommends, should urgently address long-standing disputes over customary power and land rights to prevent the recurrence of such violence.
The report also calls on the authorities to carry out a full and impartial investigation into the killings, bring those responsible to justice and facilitate access to humanitarian aid for those in need.