Mass graves containing the bodies of 49 civilians have been discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, DRC), according to the United Nations (UN). The graves were found in two villages in Ituri province in the eastern part of the country by peacekeepers of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), a United Nations spokesperson in New York said on Wednesday.
Mass graves containing the bodies of 42 civilians, including 12 women and 6 children, have been discovered in the village of Nyamamba. Another grave with the bodies of seven men was found in the village of Mbogi. Both locations are about 30 kilometres east of Bunia in Ituri.
After receiving reports of attacks on civilians by the CODECO (Cooperative for Development of the Congo) militias over the weekend, MONUSCO peacekeepers immediately sent a patrol to the area where they made the gruesome discoveries. These incidents occurred amidst a significant deterioration of the security situation in Djugu and Mahagi territories. Since December 2022, the UN mission reports that at least 195 civilians have been killed and 68 injured, as well as 84 people abducted during several incidents attributed to CODECO and Zaire armed groups.
CODECO is an association of various militia groups operating within the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The recent attacks against civilians have forced tens of thousands of people to flee the violence, increased the number of displaced people to more than 1.5 million in Ituri province and reduced access for humanitarian organizations to those in need of assistance.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is facing one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world, and the situation in the country is one of the most neglected displacement crises globally. For decades, the country has endured multiple, overlapping emergencies driven mainly by conflict and forced displacement.
With 6.6 million forcibly displaced people, the DR Congo has more displacement than any other country in Africa. At least 5.6 million people are internally displaced within the country, mainly in the eastern provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri, while 1 million refugees and asylum seekers from DRC are hosted in neighboring countries.
While the DR Congo continues to experience violence perpetrated by more than 100 armed groups active in the eastern regions, the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC has operated in the regions since 1999 and is the largest UN peacekeeping mission in the world.
MONUSCO has been authorized to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate to protect civilians, humanitarian personnel and human rights defenders under imminent threat of physical violence and to support the Government of the DRC in its stabilization and peace consolidation efforts.
Full text: Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, transcript, January 18, 2023