IDPs waiting for relief aid in eastern DRC. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

Civil society organisations in eastern DRC have reiterated their call to President Joseph Kabila to stop the ongoing killings, which have claimed more than 2,500 lives in three years.

Until late 2017, the North Kivu region had enjoyed a period of relative calm before violence resumed with the killing of dozens of civilians by armed groups, including the radical Islamic group Muslim Defense International.

Almost exactly two years ago, the same NGOs denounced the violence, but the situation has further deteriorated, noted the leaders in Beni and Lubero territories, and also in the cities of Butembo and Beni, as they met last week.

“Congolese citizens continue to be savagely killed in the Beni and Lubero territories,” said the NGOs in their open letter to President Kabila.

They said the number dead has increased from 1,116 in May 2016 to 2,459 in April 2018. This represents a ratio of at least 57 people killed per month, or an average of two people killed each day.

The territory of Beni has been the most affected, with 1,465 killed.

This is “too much!” the NGOs said, noting that kidnappings and disappearances had not stopped; on the contrary they increased, with more than 1,657 cases across the two territories of Lubero and Beni.

There were also 7,376 recorded cases of sexual violence against women and children.

Last month, a film highlighting the impact of sexual violence in eastern DRC received the 2017 Human Rights Award from the World Association for Christian Communication and SIGNIS, a worldwide association of Catholic communicators.

The film, ‘Maman Colonelle’, depicts the ways in which society blames them, and does not see them as the victims they are, therefore denying them justice and human rights.

The North Kivu NGOs also pointed out the impact of the daily violence on the population, as “vehicles and properties continue to be burned down and sometimes people and many goods are also set on fire”.

Basic infrastructure is not spared. “Schools are attacked, destroyed and looted by rebels; others are abandoned or are occupied either by displaced persons, or by dependents of the military, or by armed groups,” they wrote.

They also denounced the passivity of the government and the international community, “despite our cries and our many calls for help”.

“Why are the Congolese Government and the international community reluctant to describe the targeted killings of the people of North Kivu as a crime of genocide?” they asked.

The signatories of the open letter demanded that President Kabila takes responsibility to “restore the authority of the state” over the whole national territory, including North Kivu.