Calls mount in DR Congo to scrap emergency measures in eastWed, 16 Aug 2023 15:42:10 GMT

Political figures and members of DR Congo’s civil society on Wednesday called for the authorities to scrap emergency measures in two eastern provinces plagued by armed groups.North Kivu and Ituri provinces have been under a “state of siege” since May 2021 under a government initiative aimed at fast-tracking security measures against the groups.Under it, senior civilian officials have been widely replaced by military or police officers.In a statement, 132 prominent figures urged the government to take “the sole option… of quite simply lifting the state of siege,” restoring civilian institutions and “strengthening large-scale military operations” in the region.The call came after a three-day assessment by national and provincial elected officials, traditional leaders and senior representatives from religions and associations, brought together by President Felix Tshisekedi. The statement came from participants who hail from the two provinces.The “state of siege” has been under mounting attack in recent months over its failure to stem the violence and, according to Amnesty International, for fostering rights abuses.”Everyone knows that the state of siege is a failure,” said Jean-Claude Katende, head of the African Association for Human Rights, or ASADHO.In a commentary published on Wednesday in the national press, former North Kivu governor Julien Paluku, who is current industry minister, noted that one the region’s most dangerous groups, the M23, “revived under the state of siege.”The predominantly Tutsi group has seized swathes of territory in North Kivu since re-emerging from dormancy in late 2021.DR Congo’s government accuses neighbouring Rwanda of abetting the organisation, a charge that Kigali denies.The M23 is one of more than a hundred armed groups that roam eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, many of them a legacy of two wars that flared at the end of the 20th century.