We are extremely concerned by recurring incidents of deadly ethnically-motivated attacks on internally displaced people’s camps by armed groups in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Following deadly attacks last week and further attempts over the weekend, there is significant risk that other IDP sites could be attacked as well. We call on the DRC authorities to urgently strengthen the protection of civilians, including by ensuring the safety and security of IDPs.
On 1 February, at least 62 internally displaced people, members of the Hema ethnic community, were killed and 38 others injured by the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) armed group in a night-time attack on the Plaine Savo IDP camp. All the victims were either shot or attacked with machetes and knives.
The Plaine Savo attack is only the latest in a string of devastating raids on IDP sites by CODECO in Ituri Province, where ethnic tensions between the Hema and Lendu communities have existed for years. Between 19 and 28 November 2021, four other sites were attacked by CODECO, including the village of Drodro. At least 58 people from the Hema community were killed, including at least nine women and four children.
In total, we documented 10 attacks on IDP sites in 2021 in Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu, in which at least 106 people were killed, 16 injured and at least seven women subjected to acts of sexual violence.
In addition to concerns that other IDP sites could be attacked, particularly Loda and Djaiba, located close to Plaine Savo and hosting members of the Hema community, there is also the grave risk of retaliatory attacks by the Ituri Self-Defense Popular Front (FPAC-Zaire) armed group, which is mainly composed of members of the Hema community.
We note that the military authorities in the region have launched a preliminary investigation into the devastating attack on Plaine Savo. We call on the government to guarantee victims’ access to a remedy by ensuring that these investigations are independent, effective and transparent, and to also investigate other attacks on IDP camps and to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.
Our colleagues at MONUSCO stand ready to provide technical and logistical support to the authorities for these investigations and any potential prosecutions.