DR Congo: UNHCR Condemns Increasing Armed Violence Against Displaced Persons In Ituri

The UN agency expressed worries that many displaced persons have become targets of attacks by armed groups in Ituri province and called for more protection of the vulnerable.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has condemned the increasing violence perpetrated by armed groups on sites for internally displaced persons in the DR Congo province of Ituri.

The latest reaction by the UN agency was in a statement issued on Friday, May, 13.

There have been growing attacks on IDPs by armed groups in the province with the last such attack recorded in the evening of Monday, May 9, on the Lodda site in Djugu territory, resulting in the deaths of 15 persons including eight children aged between three and 16 years.

“Five adults and five children were equally wounded by bullets and machetes, while the assailants burnt down at least thirty shelters. The site housed 8,200 displaced persons before the attacks and about 6,000 persons on the site were forced to flee from the new violence,” the UNHCR said in the statement.

The UNHCR also shared information from a survivor of this attack who lost his wife and two children.

“There were gunshots and my wife took one of our children to escape but immediately came face-to-face with the armed men. In trying to return to the house, she was shot. My wife was killed along with two of my children, ” Jacques Mambo Suro, 51, revealed.

Angele Dikongue-Atangana, the UNHCR Representative in the DR Congo said: “We are witnesses to actions and effects of cyclical violence perpetrated by armed militia operating in the region at an increasing rhythm. Households have been torn apart and sometimes repeatedly. When will this end?”

On Sunday, May 8, 2022, another armed attack took place in the same Djugu territory at the Blanquette-Plitu mining site which was the target of armed groups.

 At least 35 deaths were recorded including women and children while more than 20 houses were looted and more than 100 houses burnt down. The incident forced the displacement of more than 250 persons.

“The civilian populations in the region and persons who were previously displaced are constrained to quit their houses and villages to avoid violence and attacks by armed groups, abandoning their means of subsistence and their goods in search for protection in areas where they consider more secure,” the UNHCR said.

“Meanwhile, even in the sites for the displaced, they are always exposed to attacks by militia who operate in the uncontrolled territory in Ituri province and who fight for resources and the control of territory.”

UNHCR reports and those of its partners talk of more than 10,000 violations of human rights in the region since the beginning of the year, notably murders, rapes, abductions and looting. 

The majority of these violations touch vulnerable displaced persons and returnees, in particular women and children. 

The UNHCR reiterated its call on all the parties to respect the humanitarian and civil character of installations for displaced persons and exhorts them to adhere to their obligations in respect of international law to protect and safeguard the lives of civilians at all moments..

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Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian investigative journalist and traditional ruler. He writes for international media and has participated in several transnational investigations. Etahoben won the first-ever Cameroon Investigative Journalist Award in 1992. He serves as a member of a number of international investigative journalism professional bodies including the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). He is HumAngle's Francophone and Central Africa editor.

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