Pictures and footage of abuse of sections of Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese have circulated on social media platforms in recent months. Internet
The United Nations Special Advisor on Genocide Prevention has condemned the escalation of violence in eastern DR Congo, saying that it was a “warning sign” in a region where genocide happened in the past.
In a statement released on Wednesday, November 30, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, who visited DR Congo earlier in November, said she was “deeply alarmed about the escalation of violence in the Great Lakes Region where a genocide - the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda – happened.”
“The current violence is a warning sign of societal fragility and proof of the enduring presence of the conditions that allowed large-scale hatred and violence to erupt into a genocide in the past,” Nderitu said.
Violence against Congolese Tutsi communities worsened this year following the resurgence of the M23 rebel group, who are fighting against government forces in North Kivu province.
M23 alleges the Kinshasa government of not honouring several agreements reached by in 2013 and continued persecution and killing of Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese by state affliated militia groups.
Faced with an advancing M23 earlier in November, President Felix Tshisekedi encouraged Congolese youth to form “vigilance groups” and warned “traitors and bad apples.” Analysts said Tshisekedi’s words could amount to incitement to communal violence.
A technical-level mission by Nderitu’s office found indicators and triggers of atrocity crimes in DR Congo, “especially against the Banyamulenge on the basis of their ethnicity and perceived allegiance with neighboring countries; and intergroup tensions,” the statement said.
They include “dissemination of hate speech and absence of independent mechanisms to address it; politicization of identity; proliferation of local militias and other armed groups across the country; widespread and systematic attacks, including sexual violence.”
Despite overwhelming evidence of brutality against Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese, DR Congo government spokesperson, Patrick Muyaya claimed that the UN concerns ‘are fiction’
“In Eastern DRC, the current violence mainly stems from the refugee crisis that resulted as many individuals involved in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda fled to Eastern DRC, forming armed groups such as the FDLR which is still active in Eastern DRC,” Nderitu said.
She said that the lasting solution to the security crisis in eastern DR Congo would require addressing the underlying causes of the violence and learning lessons from the past.
“The abuses currently occurring in Eastern DRC, including the targeting of civilians based on their ethnicity or perceived affiliation to the warring parties, must be halted. Our collective commitment not to forget past atrocities constitutes an obligation to prevent reoccurrence”, Nderitu is quoted as saying.
The statement said that Nderitu and Michele Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, had earlier in June “expressed concern over the escalation of hate speech and incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence nationwide – and specifically against the Kinyarwanda-speaking Banyamulenge people.”
They noted reports that hate speech had been spread by political and community leaders, civil society actors and some members of the Congolese diaspora.
Nderitu has called on the Congolese government to ensure its “primary responsibility to prevent atrocity crimes.”
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