Brutal murders, rapes and other crimes alleged to have been committed by the Lendu ethnic community in Ituri province, northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, may, according to the United Nations, constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.
“The persistence of this violence is likely to drive members of the societies that the targets of the attacks, which have so far shown restraint, to form self-defense militia,” according to the UN Joint Human Rights Agency (UNJHRO).
“This may increase the likelihood of large-scale violence in the municipalities of the region,” according to UNJHRO.
A report by UNJHRO on Wednesday shows that at least 296 people were killed, 151 wounded and 38 raped over a period of six months to April 2020. Women and children are among the victims of barbaric acts committed primarily by warriors with ties to CODECO: s rebel group, many of whom are Lendu.
The latest attacks launched in March against civilians not only targeted the Hema and Alur communities, but also included communities in the area that had previously been spared, says the UNJRHO report.
CODECO leader Justin Ngudjolo was killed in an arm horse in March, which created a power struggle and was divided into the group.
Some of the worst battles took place between 1999 and 2007 in the pursuit of Ituri’s rich natural resources, which include gold, diamonds, oil and the colt.
The fighting between rebel groups was transformed into ethnic violence between the Hema and Lendu communities.
Hundreds of thousands of people in the area have been displaced since June 2018, with a total displaced in Ituri more than 1.2 million people, UNJRHO says.
“There is a high risk that leaders with more radical positions will emerge and throw the area into a more serious cycle of violence, with even more attacks on (the army) and civilians,” UNJRHO said in the report.