Mass Murder Is The Norm In Democratic Republic of Congo Conflict

Armed groups are battling the government, and innocent civilians are caught in the middle.

Death and displacement are on the rise in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the army and local militia groups have been waging battle in recent months.

The conflict has killed at least 3,383 people in the central Kasai region since October, Reuters reported Tuesday. 

Tensions escalated when President Joseph Kabila refused to step down at the end of his term in December. Militant groups launched uprisings in the leadership vacuum his fragile governance created.

Kasai has turned into the epicenter of the conflict. Violence intensified after the leader of the Kamwina Nsapu militia was killed last August.

More than 100 deaths in the area in February suggested “excessive and disproportionate use of force” by government soldiers, U.N. Human Rights Council spokeswoman Liz Throssel said at the time.

The killing methods employed in this war are particularly brutal. U.N. investigators have found 40 mass grave sites across the Kasai region since August that they claimed were linked to government soldiers. A video obtained by The New York Times in February also showed a government-sponsored civilian killing campaign, which, if verified, would point to war crimes. Two U.N. experts were even kidnapped and murdered earlier this year after investigating the fighting in Kasai.

About 1.3 million people became displaced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo last year, the United Nations Refugee Agency announced in a report published Monday. About 8,000 people were forced to flee every day in May, the Norwegian Refugee Council said. Most are women and children.

The DRC was also devastated by a brutal ethnic conflict in the late 1990s and early 2000s, which left more than 5 million people dead