Article by: Amnesty International
Civilians are dying as the world has turned its attention away from the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Since 2014, residents of Beni, DRC, have lived under unexplained vicious attacks. Houses are burned down, civilians are killed, bodies of young children and women mutilated by armed groups and yet there’s no global outrage about this tragedy.
— Ida Sawyer (@ida_sawyer) October 31, 2016
The senseless killings of people in Beni are happening under the noses of the DRC’s army Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and the United Nation Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), deployed in the Beni area to “eradicate” the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed group from Uganda operating in the region.
“We know there are FARDC officers who collude with ADF. But we don’t know who.” – FARDC Colonel.
Reports from the United Nations Group of Experts have pointed to a more complex situation with multiple perpetrators and accomplices. These reports have also alleged the involvement of some FARDC soldiers in the killings as accomplices. The government and the UN have done little to investigate.
The failure of military operations to protect civilians in Beni
In 2014, the government forces, together with the UN forces (MONUSCO), launched an ambitious military campaign dubbed “Sokola 1“ (meaning “Cleaning”) against armed groups in the region of Beni. The government and MONUSCO presented this campaign as a success, citing some positive achievements in destabilizing the ADF group in 2014. However some experts, including the Congo Research Group, have blasted the deployment of military arsenal with very little result in protecting civilians in Beni. Killings haven’t stopped in Beni since.
What is most appalling is that despite multiple attacks by armed groups, the Congolese government never conducted an independent investigation to evaluate the failures and to find better ways to protect civilians. In June 2016, after a UN Group of Experts report highlighted damning evidence of support from FARDC officers to some armed groups that carried out killings, the government announced that it would carry out an investigation. However, the authorities haven’t communicated any progress on this investigation.
Beni is bleeding. The world doesn’t seem to care.
Families are being torn apart. Children wake up to being orphans, if they are lucky to survive the despicable attacks that killed their parents.
On 14 August 2016, media reported more than 36 civilians were killed in Rwangoma, a neighborhood in Beni city. On 3 May 2016, the BBC reported that 17 people were killed around Erengeti village, including at least eight women and four children, according to the official government statement. They were killed by machetes and a hoe. Both the Congolese army and the UN forces have a strong presence in the area. And yet, both failed to protect civilians.
On 20 November 2014, in villages of Tipiomba, Vemba and Masulukwede/Mbau, 120 people were killed. Sometimes, the killers beheaded their victims. The UN Group of Experts has identified at least four cases of beheading and several other cases of burning.
The population lives under constant fear of an attack, fear of speaking out on what they have witnessed and fear of reprisals if they denounce those suspected of the killings or their accomplices.
Where is the world’s outrage on Beni killings? Many Congolese often ask where the world’s solidarity is at when it comes to the killings in Beni. The world seems blind when Beni is bleeding.
“As the massacres in eastern Congo illustrate, peace cannot be achieved at the expense of justice.” – Dr Denis Mukwege, world renowned gynecological surgeon
“We have the impression that the FARDC and MONUSCO care more about their own interests than protecting the local population.” – Local farmer
Inside The Numbers
+648 – The figure that UN Group of Experts’ estimates is the number of civilians killed from October 2014 to March 2016.
11,700 – According to the Congo Research Group, between 11 200 and 11 700 FARDC soldiers are deployed in the region of Beni
18,814 – More than 18000 United Nations’ military and police personnel are deployed in the DRC
“The DRC’s government announces it has started military operations against the Ugandan rebel group, ADF, in Beni region. Since then, more than 650 civilians have been killed by armed groups.” – Anonymous source in the region.
Amnesty International is asking anyone who reads this article and is concerned about human rights in general to sign their online petition and get as many voices heard as possible. Please fill out the form below.
Demand Justice for the victims of Beni: https://www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/take-action/demand-justice-for-the-victims-of-beni-killings-in-drc/
This article was first published by Amnesty International on 11/9/2016 under a by-nc-nd International Creative Commons License and was republished, with permission, in accordance with the Terms and Conditions of Amnesty International. *Tweets were added and embedded by Alternative Medi4.*