And United Nations investigators on Tuesday accused the security forces and militia fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) of committing crimes against humanity in the country’s restive Kasai region.
The war-torn country was supposed to have held its legislative and presidential polls in 2016 but president Joseph Kabila has held on to power.
Tensions were, however, cooled off when the Catholic Church two years ago oversaw the signing of an agreement with political players in that country.
The deal would have seen Kabila leave power this year after serving his two full terms, in addition to finishing off Laurent Kabila—his father tenure who was assassinated in 2001.
Though he has not categorically stated whether he will change the constitution and extend his stay, there are fears in DR Congo that Kabila is not going anywhere.
But chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki, says holding elections in DR Congo is an urgent matter.
“There is nothing more urgent than the holding of peaceful, free, transparent and inclusive elections by #RDC the end of this year…” he said via his Twitter account yesterday.
With such a position taken by the influential body, it is not clear whether Kabila will allow his nemesis Moise Katumbi to participate in the polls by dropping all his charges against him that many view as politically motivated.
Kabila also faces a headache over former warlord Jean Pierre-Bemba who was recently acquitted of his 18 year jail term by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Meanwhile, UN investigators on Tuesday accused the security forces and militia fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) of committing crimes against humanity in the country’s restive Kasai region.
The probe was established by the United Nations Human Rights Council last year to investigate abuses in Kasai, which was plunged into violence in September 2016 after government troops killed a local chieftain, Kamwina Nsapu.
The chieftain was opposed to the Kinshasa government, and now rebels fighting in his name are battling government forces and a pro-government militia called the Bana Mura.
“Some of the abuses committed by the defence and security forces, the Bana Mura militia and the Kamwina Nsapu militia, constitute crimes against humanity (and) war crimes,” the investigators said.
The report will be presented to the rights council next month.
It accused both government troops and militia members of targeting civilians in a “systematic or widespread manner,” highlighting atrocities that include murder, mutilation, rape, sexual “enslavement” and other “inhuman acts.”
“A very serious problem of impunity persists, given the scale and gravity of these crimes,” added the investigators, who were granted access to Kasai to conduct the probe.
The unrest in Kasai has claimed more than 3 000 lives, and displaced some 1,4 million people from their homes, according to the Roman Catholic church, although this estimate is months old, and an accurate picture of the conflict is notoriously hard to come by.
The crisis is the latest in what has proven to be one of Africa’s most troubled nations, which has been devastated by two regional wars and countless rebel insurgencies since the mid-1990s.