The UN Human Rights Council voiced alarm on Friday at serious violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s restive Kasai region, and agreed to send experts to assess whether Kinshasa is making recommended changes.
The UN’s top rights body adopted by consensus a resolution “firmly condemning all violence, incitement to hatred and to ethnic violence … committed by all parties in the conflict in Kasai.”
The text, a compromise between two competing draft resolutions, was softer than what might have been expected following a report last week by a group of the UN investigators that accused DRC troops and militia members of committing “crimes against humanity” in the region.
In their report, the investigators said both DRC’s security forces and militia members were targeting civilians in Kasai in a “systematic or widespread manner,” highlighting atrocities including murder, mutilation, rape, sexual “enslavement” and other “inhuman acts”.
Following that report, two competing draft resolutions were initially presented to the UN’s top rights body, one by the EU and the other by a group of African countries.
Following discussions, the texts were merged into the resolution adopted on Friday, which stopped short of using phrases like “crimes against humanity” and also refrained from reinstating the team of investigators who have been probing abuses on the ground.
Instead it called for dispatching a new team of two rights experts to follow up on the investigator’s findings and assess how the government is implementing their recommendations, especially when it comes to fighting impunity.
DRC’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Zenon Mukongo Ngay, hailed that “deadlock was avoided”, thanks to “concessions made by both sides”.
Speaking on behalf of the EU, Slovakian representative Anton Fric said however the bloc regretted that the resolution “doesn’t fully capture the seriousness and the scope of the past and present violations and abuses of human rights in the Kasai region.”
“All the victims of these atrocities, including those committed by the security forces, are still demanding accountability,” he said.
But he nonetheless hailed the final text for “establishing a credible follow-up.”
The Kasai region 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.
The crisis is the latest in what has proven to been one of Africa’s most troubled nations, which has been devastated by two regional wars and countless rebel insurgencies since the mid-1990s.