Ituri is current DRC flashpoint

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Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has become a hotbed of violence with reports of killings, sexual violence, abductions, destruction of property and attacks against IDPs (internally displaced persons) camps according to United Nations (UN) special advisor on genocide, Alice Nderitu.

In a statement issued this week she names DRC province Ituri as being the area where deterioration of the human rights and security situations is of “grave concern”.

She notes receiving “alarming reports” of multiple attacks against civilians by “armed actors” adding since December “at least 195 civilians lost their lives and many more were injured”.

On 13 January, at attack reportedly by militia group CODECO in Nyamamba and Mbogi villages in Ituri resulted in at least 49 civilians allegedly summarily executed. A few days later, two mass graves containing the bodies of 42 and seven civilians respectively were discovered in the same locations.

“While the situation in North and South Kivu requires immediate action, so does the situation in Ituri. Civilians are being massacred based on ethnic identity, yet again. The conditions necessary for the commission of atrocity crimes continue to be present in a region where genocide happened in 1994. We need to do our utmost to make sure history does not repeat itself,” the Special Adviser stated while commending ongoing efforts by the African Union (AU) and East African Community (RAC) to negotiate an end to violent conflict and building sustainable peace in the region.

Nderitu said Ituri was relatively calm for several years, but in 2017 armed groups resumed systematic attacks. “The violence, partly based on fights over natural resources, has roots in longstanding tensions and rivalries between two communities – the Hema traditional herders and the farming Lendu”.

She condemned widespread indiscriminate attacks allegedly conducted mainly by CODECO, but also the Zaïre armed group and others who manipulate intercommunal tensions and target civilians along ethnic lines.

“The situation in Ituri remains extremely volatile. If we do not act promptly, the region may be engulfed in atrocity crimes as happened in the past,” the statement has her saying.