UN rights office alarmed by increasing violence in Democratic Republic of Congo

[JURIST] A spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] said Monday that at least 21 people died [press release] in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in attacks aimed at Hutus, with 40 more people being wounded and dozens of houses burned. This is the latest in a series of attacks that has recently intensified due to a Rwandan Hutu militia, operating out of DRC, being accused of killing 14 ethnic Nande. The attack was believed to involve a Nande-dominated militia and a Nyonga-dominated group, two other local ethnic groups that have been involved in the conflicts. Expressing concern over the "escalating inter-communal violence," OHCHR spokesperson Cécile Pouilly said, "[w]e call upon the Congolese Government to do its utmost to ensure the protection of civilians and eradicate the threat of armed groups. We urge all sides to exercise restraint and engage in a meaningful dialogue in order to de-escalate tensions."

The DRC [UN News Centre backgrounder] and surrounding region has seen a high level of conflict in the past decades, and the extension of presidencies has been a contributing issue in many African nations. At the end of January UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] urged African leaders to avoid using loopholes and undemocratic constitutional changes to "cling to power" [JURIST report]. Last year protests and demonstrations [JURIST report] took place across the DRC to oppose the proposed changes in the law that would allow President Joseph Kabila to extend his presidential term past the allotted two-year limit, and the government was accused of using excessive force against these protesters.

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