The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) president, Felix Tshisekedi, has proclaimed a “state of siege” over the worsening violence in the eastern provinces of Ituri and North Kivu.
Since the beginning of the year, a surge in armed group attacks and intercommunal violence in the DRC’s east has killed over 300 civilians, escalating a humanitarian and displacement crisis in the mineral-rich region.
Tshisekedi’s decision was announced late Friday by government spokesman Patrick Muyaya, who said, “The aim is to swiftly end the insecurity that is killing our fellow citizens in that part of the world on a daily basis.”
He did not specify what steps would be taken next in the event of a siege.
According to Kambale Musavali, an analyst at the Centre for Research on the Congo-Kinshasa, the government is increasingly likely to send in more troops to the two affected areas, where government troops and United Nations peacekeepers have failed to hold the conflict at bay.
“This is a prelude to what I believe will be military operations in the area,” Musavali told Al Jazeera. “It’s worrisome because we’ve had military operations in the DRC,” he said.
“Hearing this state of siege taking place, it may bring confidence to the population as this is a path in the right direction, but the question that must be asked is how is this military action different from previous military actions.”
Yesterday, @Presidence_RDC declared a “state of siege” for two provinces (Kivu and Ituri) in the DRC. This is a precursor to Kenyan troops and @USAfricaCommand military actions. Is this a path in right direction?— #CongoIsBleeding (@kambale) May 1, 2021
My thoughts on issue. #CongoIsBleedinghttps://t.co/x8V5j7tSqg
Tshisekedi said on Thursday that he was planning “radical measures” to deal with the country’s security situation in the east.
This came after the prime minister suggested on Monday that a state of emergency be imposed in the east, “replacing the civil government with a military administration.”
In the eastern DRC, an estimated 122 armed groups of varying sizes operate, many of which are remnants of disastrous regional wars in the 1990s.
The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group established in neighboring Uganda more than 20 years ago, is blamed for much of the recent carnage.
Since the army launched operations against it in late 2019, it has carried out a series of brutal reprisal attacks on civilians, killing approximately 850 people last year, according to UN estimates.
According to UNICEF, the conflict has exacerbated a humanitarian crisis, with more than 1.6 million people displaced in Ituri out of a total population of 5.7 million people. According to the study, 2.8 million people in the country need emergency assistance.
Police and soldiers in Beni, North Kivu, used tear gas and whips to disperse high school students protesting the failure on Friday.
Several dozen students had been camped out in front of the town hall for the past week, demanding the withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping force MONUSCO and the visit of Tshisekedi to the troubled area. Protesters accuse peacekeepers of failing to prevent rebel assaults.