The eastern part of DR Congo has been plagued by violence for more than 25 years, with more than 100 armed local and foreign armed groups operating in the region
Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi's crackdown on rebel groups is having no discernible impact on attacks against civilians and risks squandering an opportunity to map a sustainable path to peace, a new report said on Friday.
The eastern part of DR Congo has been plagued by violence for more than 25 years, with more than 100 armed local and foreign armed groups operating in the region.
Tshisekedi, who took over as president in January 2019, has declared a state of siege in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, with the army also conducting operations in neighbouring South Kivu.
But such approaches "have still not resulted in the expected outcomes," Kivu SecurityTracker (KST), a joint initiative of Human Rights Watch and the Congo Study Group, said in its report.
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"At times, they have even worsened the situation, such as the 'large-scale' offensive launched against the ADF at the end of October 2019, and which was followed by a wave of civilian killings, unprecedented since that of 2014-15," it added, referring to the Allied Democratic Forces, DRC's most deadly armed group.
At the same time, Tshisekedi's rise to become president was "a window of opportunity to convince armed groups to lay down their weapons" as part of a so-called disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme -- or DDR -- the report said.
Tshisekedi took over after the 18-year reign of Joseph Kabila in a peaceful transition of power to a "president who has not taken part in armed conflicts in the last 20 years."
After Kabila's departure, several groups "had spontaneously expressed the wish to join a DDR process to 'serve' the country," KST said.
Instead, Tshisekedi's military response had essentially transferred significant civilian powers to military and police rules.
Killings are reported almost daily in North Kivu and Ituri, despite the state of seige, KST said.
From May 6 to September 10, "at least 739 civilians were killed" in these two regions, according to HRW.
The vast majority of these massacres are attributed to the ADF.
Originally Ugandan Muslim rebels, they are now presented by the jihadist organisation Islamic State as its branch in Central Africa.