UN says at least 535 killed in inter-ethnic violence in western DRC

UNITED NATIONS. — Recent fights between tribes in western Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have claimed at least 535 lives with the toll expected to go higher, a UN spokesman said on Tuesday.

The “inter-communal attacks” from December 16-18, 2018 have left 535 people dead and 111 injured. The number of casualties is likely to be higher as bodies are believed to have been dumped into the Congo River, said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“It was also not possible to confirm the number of persons still missing, with an estimated 19,000 people displaced by the violence,” he said. Investigators found that the clashes between Banunu and Batende communities were triggered by a dispute over the burial of a Banunu chief.

The attacks staged with rifles, machetes, bows and arrows, and gasoline, leaving little time for people to escape. They were executed with the support of customary chiefs and may amount to crimes against humanity, according to a report by the UN Joint Human Rights Office in the capital of Kinshasa.

“The report also stresses that the violence was facilitated by the absence of state action to prevent it and warns of the risk of renewed violence,” the spokesman said. Leila Zerrougui, the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, called on the Kinshasa government for urgent action to restore the authority of the state and create conditions for the safe and voluntary return of those displaced.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called for justice and accountability to establish the facts and hold those responsible to account. – Xinhua