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DRC Violence Kills 1,300+: UN

FILE: DRC soldiers engaged in the fight against the insurgent M23 group and others including the Allied Democratic Forces. Taken Feb. 9, 2023

GENEVA - UN rights chief Volker Turk decried Thursday surging violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, with rampant sexual violence and more than 1,300 people, including over 100 children, killed since October.

"Since October 2022, at least 1,334 people, including 107 children, have been killed in these eastern [DRC] provinces," Volker Turk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said.

Rebel militias have plagued the DRC for decades, and Turk warned the United Nations Human Rights Council that "armed violence has intensified in eastern provinces, notably in Ituri and North Kivu".

The Islamist-aligned Allied Democratic Forces, a notorious militia called CODECO, and M23 insurgents, along with the Zaire and Nyatura armed groups, were continuing to "perpetrate despicable attacks against the civilian population with complete impunity", he said.

Presenting the council with an update on the situation, Turk lamented that the violence had displaced some six million people inside the DRC, marking the highest number of internally displaced people in Africa.

He warned that areas that until now have generally been spared, including the western provinces of Mai-Ndombe and Kwilu, had begun seeing outbreaks of violence.

Turk also condemned continued widespread "vicious sexual violence," which he pointed out had historically been "used in the DRC as a deliberate weapon of war and strategy of terror".

In 2022 alone, he said the UN had "documented and verified cases of conflict-related sexual violence against 701 victims, including 503 women, 11 men and 187 girls".

At the same time, he hailed the authorities taking "significant steps" in the fight against impunity, with at least 91 members of the defense and security forces and at least 143 members of armed groups convicted of offences related to rights violations last year.

"These are important achievements, both for the victims and in terms of their deterrent effect," he said, adding though that "the scale of violations and abuses that have been suffered demands much more action to stem widespread perceptions of impunity."