North Kivu : human rights defenders threatened in areas of armed conflict

North Kivu : human rights defenders threatened in areas of armed conflict

Human rights defenders in Rutshuru territory warn of threats made against them by militia leaders. They count 18 activists killed by gunmen in a period of three months. INFO SOS Médias Burundi

In a press release issued Tuesday in Kiwanja in the territory of Rutshuru in the province of North Kivu (eastern DRC), human rights defenders claim to be targets of elements of armed groups operating in this part of the Democratic Republic of congo. This, since the beginning of the clashes between the armed forces of the DRC and the rebels of the M23 in the territories of Rutshuru and Masisi, in the province of North Kivu.

According to Patrick Ricky Paluku, head of an association of human rights defenders in Rutshuru territory, at least 18 activists have been killed in just three months.

“It is a situation that does not reassure us, we, human rights actors in Rutshuru territory. Armed groups are attacking us and we wonder when this issue will end. In the space of only three months, 18 of our colleagues have been killed by armed groups in the two chiefdoms of Rutshuru territory, for having denounced the barbarities perpetrated by these rebels”, he said.

The Coordination of the civil society, Forces vives de Rutshuru, for its part, specifies that the rebels of the M23, as well as elements of the CMC Nyatura, Maï-Maï and other local militias, are all a source of killings of the activists.

Leaders of the armed groups cited accuse each other in relation to the allegations of the civil society.

“These are the elements of the Kinshasa government coalition, CMC Nyatura, Mai-Mai and FDLR. They kill people and human rights defenders for the sole purpose of tarnishing our image. They hide traces of their collaborations to attack our positions but also to attack all Rwandophones”, accuses Major Willy Ngoma, spokesperson for M23.

“We can never kill the people who give us their trust and whom we are supposed to secure morning, noon and night, and we protect them as necessary”, adds the military spokesperson for the March 23 movement.

In response, Jules Mulumba, one of the leaders of the local militias blames the M23 rebels.

“We have united in one person to defend the cause of our compatriots, victims of aggression in our province. Really it is the M23 rebels who are killing the population”, thus reacts Jules Mulumba.

Since the beginning of the fighting in the eastern part of the country, the territory of Rutshuru has repeatedly been the epicenter of massacres of civilians.

Last week, more than a dozen residents were killed in the locality of Bungushu in the chiefdom of Bwito in Rutshuru, according to a provincial deputy from this province. The place of the tragedy is under the control of elements of the regional force of the EAC.

This elected official accuses the elements of the EAC of the Kenyan and Ugandan and southern Sudanese contingents of collaborating closely with the M23 rebels.

“It is unbelievable to see people killed in a part that is under the control of elements in the region. We demand that strict measures be taken to put an end to insecurity”, he said.

More than 100,000 people have been displaced and dozens killed following a series of attacks by armed groups in the province of North Kivu, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), reported the UN last March.

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