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Open Letter on Mass Atrocities Against the Hema, DR Congo

Joint NGO Open Letter of Concern on Mass Atrocities Committed Against the Hema in the Democratic Republic of Congo

February 10, 2022

Photo: Displaced persons camp in Ituri, DRC. (Finbarr O'Reilly)

The Mahoro Peace Association (MPA), representing the Congolese Banyamulenge diaspora community in the United States, the Crane Center for Mass Atrocity Prevention, Genocide Watch, Jewish World Watch, and Hero Women Rising condemn the brutal murders of over 60 mainly Hema internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Djugu Territory, Ituri Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

On the night of February 1, 2022, members of an ethnic Lendu militia, Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO), attacked the Plaine Savo camp for displaced Hema people in Djugu Territory. The militia hacked people to death with machetes in a replay of the genocidal massacres of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The Congolese national army (FARDC) and the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO) did not arrive until after the attack was over, despite troops being based only a mile away from the IDP camp. It is explicitly in MONUSCO’s UN mandate to protect civilians, including IDPs. The UN peacekeepers failed to fulfill their mandate. Since 2017, CODECO Lendu militias have been attacking Hema communities, repeating a long pattern that dates back to the time of the Rwandan genocide. The Lendu militias also attack the Alur, in what the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) says may constitute genocide. In 2019, President Tshisekedi also described these attacks as “attempted genocide.” The Crane Center for Mass Atrocity Prevention, Genocide Watch, Mahoro Peace Association, Jewish World Watch, and Hero Women Rising declare unequivocally that these attacks on the Hema constitute an ongoing genocide. Like the Banyamulenge of South Kivu Province and other pastoralist minorities across the DRC, the Hema are targeted with hate speech and massacres because they are dehumanized as “invaders.” While the press has reported the recent attack on the Plaine Savo camp as part of “ethnic conflict,” the genocidal dynamics of the attacks have been overlooked. Press reports have referred to the ‘Lendu-Hema conflict,’ as though it is a two-sided war, rather than a one-sided genocide against pastoralists in the Rift Valley of Central Africa. While the government of the DRC has declared CODECO to be a terrorist group and has imposed a state of siege on Ituri since May 2021, the attacks have worsened this past year. FARDC tactics against CODECO, which are also used against the terrorist Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), have been heavy-handed, poorly coordinated with MONUSCO, and ineffective. The attack on the Plaine Savo camp demonstrates the need to put civilians at the heart of security measures. Special attention must be paid to infiltrating and gathering intelligence about threatened attacks against villages and displaced persons camps of targeted minorities. MONUSCO and FARDC troops should be reinforced to protect IDP camps. The aforementioned coalition of human rights organizations recommends the following: 1. The United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), the Congolese government, and the national army (FARDC) must address the failure of the “state of siege” in Ituri and North Kivu, as well as address the inadequate protection of IDP camps in the eastern DRC. 2. The Congolese government and FARDC must provide substantially strengthened security for vulnerable IDP camps and civilian populations, as well as facilitate the provision of increased humanitarian aid in Djugu Territory by relief organizations. 3. The European Union, UN member states, the United States, and the African Union should expand their existing sanctions against individuals and businesses involved in current atrocities in the DRC, including those specifically targeting the Hema and the Banyamulenge. The Mahoro Peace Association, the Crane Center for Mass Atrocity Prevention, Genocide Watch, Jewish World Watch, and Hero Women Rising stand in solidarity with the Hema, Banyamulenge, and other marginalized communities within the DRC. We jointly call for an end to the hate-filled rhetoric and impunity that ignites genocide. All peoples living in the Democratic Republic of Congo, regardless of ethnicity, have the right to peaceful coexistence.


Adele Kibasumba, President, Mahoro Peace Association Amber Maze, Executive Director, Crane Center for Mass Atrocity Prevention Dr. Gregory Stanton, President, Genocide Watch Courtney Hamilton, Director of Advocacy and Strategic Growth, Jewish World Watch Neema Namadamu, Executive Director, Hero Women Rising

You can view the original joint letter at Crane Center's website.

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