İrem UZUN -TDO- Killings, rapes and other barbaric violence committed by an ethnic armed group in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo against a rival group may amount to crimes against humanity and possibly even genocide, the United Nations said on Friday.
The attacks in Ituri province have mostly targeted Hema herders, who have long been in conflict with Lendu farmers over grazing rights and political representation. An investigation carried out by the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) in the DRC, found that at least 701 people have been killed and 168 injured following attacks involving the Hema and Lendu communities in the country’s northeast province of Ituri, between December 2017 and September last year. “In addition, at least 142 people have been subjected to acts of sexual violence, most of them members of the Hema community,” the report said. According to investigators, since September 2018, Lendu armed groups have become increasingly organized in carrying out attacks against the Hema and members of other ethnic groups such as the Alur.
“The widespread nature of the organization, the systematic nature, is certainly characteristic of crimes against humanity,” U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a briefing. “The barbarity that characterizes these attacks – including the beheading of women and children with machetes, the dismemberment and removal of body parts of the victims as trophies of war – reflects the desire of the attackers to inflict lasting trauma to the Hema communities and to force them to flee and not return to their villages,” the report shows.“Certain elements constituting genocide may be present according to the international law,” it adds.