In the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the state of siege, declared in early May, is likely to be extended for the seventh time, as DRC’s National Assembly urgently convened a plenary session on Monday for another examination in order to cope with tensions that are constantly on the rise in the violence-laden part of the country.
On May 6, 2021, after a decision by DRC’s president Felix Tshisekedi, a state of siege was declared in Ituri and North Kivu, two DRC’s northeastern provinces that are in the grip of endless violence. The civilian authorities of the two northeastern provinces were soon replaced by military administrations, in an attempt to put an end to violence that has lasted for more than 25 years. “To address the situation during the state of siege, the civilian authorities of the provincial governments of Ituri and North Kivu and the decentralized entities of those provinces will be replaced by the officers of the armed forces of the DRC or the Congolese National Police,” said in early May the order announced by Tshisekedi’s spokesman Tharsice Kasongo Mwema.
According to government spokesman Patrick Muyaya, the presidential decision on declaring a state of siege is “to swiftly end the insecurity that is killing our citizens in that part of the country on a daily basis”. According to a report published in March by the United Nations (UN) Refugee Agency, armed group the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) has increased its attacks especially in Beni Territory of North Kivu, epicenter of looming violence and clashes among armed forces, since the beginning of this year, leaving nearly 200 people dead, dozens of others injured, and around 40,000 displaced in the region. Another report published in April by the UN Children’s Fund said more than 1.6 million people, out of a total population of 5.7 million, are estimated to be displaced in Ituri. The state of siege in the two violence-laden provinces is likely to be extended for the seventh time after an urgently-convened plenary session of the National Assembly on Monday. As the last extension of this state of siege is about to expire on September 3, DRC’s parliament would take a vote for another extension after evaluating the situation on the ground.
In a recent trip to the two provinces to assess the situation of the state of siege, DRC’s Prime Minister Sama Lukonde acknowledged some progress on the ground even if several things are yet to be done.”It shows us that there is work being done and that there has always been progress on the ground, but these are steps to be maintained because, it is one thing to recover certain localities, certain positions. To have another option we will see how to improve the things where it does not work and will be able to put the troops where things are working, certainly there are many problems.”
However, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) voiced its concerns last week for the “worsening situation “in Beni. In the first two weeks of August, at least 27 civilians were killed in this area, where 37 other civilians had already been killed in July 2021, according to the humanitarian office said, adding that more than 710,000 people have been displaced in Beni territory.”For more than three months, the violence continued. 535 people have been killed during the state of siege, an average of 6 deaths per day. We believed in the state of siege and three months later, we see that it has not made it possible to secure us,” said Stewart Muhindo, a resident from North Kivu, calling the government to find “another solution” to the violence.