A surge in attacks in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo has claimed more than 700 lives at the hands of militia fighters since December, the United Nations said Monday.
Rebel militias have plagued the eastern DRC for decades, many of them a legacy of regional wars that flared during the 1990s and early 2000s.
“The security situation deteriorated further in the three eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo with a steep surge in violence,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a quarterly report on the situation in the mineral-rich but war-scarred former Zaire.
He said the violence was committed mainly by the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamist-aligned group; a notorious militia called CODECO; and M23 insurgents.
Guterres also expressed concern over human rights violations, saying at least 628 people were killed in extrajudicial or summary killings by armed groups around the country, not just in the three provinces of the east.
Kinshasa and several Western governments say the M23 rebels are backed by Rwanda eyeing the natural resources across the border, a claim denied by Kigali.
Guterres said he was worried about a rise in hate speech exacerbated by M23 violence and tension between the DRC and Rwanda.
“I am also alarmed by the escalating tensions between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. I encourage both sides to settle their differences through dialogue and existing conflict resolution mechanisms,” Guterres said.