DRC President Appeals To Geneva UN Human Rights Council For International Help

DRC President Felix Tshisekedi

President Felix Tshisekedi Tshilombo flew to Geneva to appeal personally to the UN and heads of state gathered for the 52nd regular session of the UN Human Rights Council, for international help in ending the war in the east of Democratic Republic of Congo, and enforcing respect for human rights there.

« There is no greater enemy of human rights and fundamental freedoms than war » said President Tshisekedi. « It is time for the international community, in particular the United Nations, to sanction the perpetrators of crimes and violations of international law in the DRC and to force them to implement the peace plan » agreed in Nairobi and Luanda.

Last week, the assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ilze Brands Kehris, completed a 10-day visit to the DRC, and expressed ‘alarm’ at the deteriorating security situation in the east of the country where M23, as well as other armed groups ADF and CODECO, continue to carry out brutal attacks against civilians. « I strongly condemn these appalling attacks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and echo the Secretary-General’s call last weekend for ‘action for peace’ in Africa. The violence must stop. », said Ms Brands Kehris in a press release issued on 22 February.

Ms Kehris reported that victims she spoke with in the Nord Kivu region urged the UN and the international community to help them and the government end the conflict and their suffering. Survivors of gruesome violence and other abuses told the UN Human Rights representative that they feel abandoned and forgotten, according to the OHCHR report.

President Tshisekedi said today « For thirty years, the DRC has been the scene of the most abominable human rights atrocities. Serious human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity are committed with total impunity. » DRC has become infamous for « recruitment of child soldiers », « violence against women » and « systematic rape of women as a weapon of war » said the President in his speech.

According to UNICEF, the UN’s children’s agency, there are 5.7 million internally displaced people in DRC, the highest number on the African continent. The majority of these are located in the East because of continuous fighting. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes and exist in appalling conditions in overcrowded and unsanitary temporary settlements prone to cholera and measles outbreaks, on the sides of a volcano. Children are the worst affected, separated from their families, recruited by armed groups, and subject to ever-growing levels of sexual violence.

In a stark warning to the international community last December, UNICEF said that DRC’s humanitarian catastrophe was expected to escalate significantly. « The international community must act now to address this major protection crisis. », said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF’s regional director.

In a tweet on 25 February, the UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs (OCHA) confirmed the worsening situation, reporting that « The humanitarian situation in DRC Congo has deteriorated due to a spike in violence, with over 600,000 people newly displaced since March 2022. »

In Geneva today, President Tshisekedi called for the creation of an international criminal court for the DRC, to investigate over 600 incidents documented in the Mapping Report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and recalled the report of the UN group of experts submitted to the UN Security Council in January documenting evidence of war crimes by Rwandan military forces in North Kivu, and the « solid evidence » of Rwandan support for M23 activities, as now acknowledged by the United Nations, many international states and NGOs.

President Felix Tshisekedi reminded the international community that « the persistence of the war in the east of our country risks jeopardising the electoral process ». Electoral registration for December’s poll has just started in the eastern zone, but the massive displacement of citizens from their homes, persistent insecurity and the inaccessibility of certain areas make this problematic. « It is therefore imperative that the international community becomes more actively involved alongside the DRC in the restoration of peace and state authority in this part of the national territory. », he said.

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