The UN says more than 250 people, including 62 children, have been killed in attacks in the Democratic Republic of Congo that are “taking on an increasing and disturbing ethnic dimension”.
In a report based on interviews with almost 100 victims, the UN’s Human Rights Office said it believed the DRC government to be complicit in the massacres in the south-western Kasai province.
At least 80 mass graves have been identified in the region, the UN said, and investigators believe the abuses in the most recent flare-up of violence could amount to crimes under international law.
Zeid bin Ra'ad al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: “Survivors have spoken of hearing the screams of people being burned alive, of seeing loved ones chased and cut down, of themselves fleeing in terror, and such bloodletting is all the more horrifying because we found indications that people are increasingly being targeted because of their ethnic group.”
But the UN figure is likely to be a considerable underestimation of the true scale of casualties in the violence, which was sparked last year when a regional leader, who was critical of President Joseph Kabila, was assassinated in a military operation.
The Catholic Church, which wields a great deal of political sway in the country, believes the number of dead in the recent conflict is closer to 3,400, accusing security forces and militias of destroying up to 20 whole villages in the Kasai province in June.