No End in Sight for DR Congo Violence: Hundreds Killed, Thousands Raped and Millions Displaced

Thousands of people are fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as extrajudicial killings, rape and abductions continue in restive areas of the country.

A report by the United Nations said at least 800,000 children have been forced from their homes in Tanganyika and South Kivu provinces, eastern DRC, due to inter-ethnic violence and clashes among armed groups, militias and government forces.

The U.N. children agency (UNICEF) said the situation was one of "the world's worst displacement crises for children", who are sexually abused and recruited to fight. The agency documented at least 800 cases of child sexual abuse and 3,000 of recruitment into militias over the past year.

Violence in the two provinces has also left 1.3 million people displaced. Thousands have fled to neighboring Uganda.

At the same time, the U.N. mission in DRC (MONUSCO) claimed "state agents" carried out at least 1,176 extra-judicial killings last year, including 89 women and 213 children. The killings have tripled over the past two years.

The Mission also recorded 6,497 human rights violations and abuses committed by state agents and armed groups in 2017.

DRC violence
Congolese people who crossed the border from the Democratic Republic of Congo arrive at the Nyakabande transit center in the village of Nyakabande, western Uganda, to be registered as refugees on January 24, 2018. Thousands have fled to Uganda due to instability, extrajudicial executions, sexual violence and abductions in restive areas of the country. SUMY SADURNI/AFP/Getty Images

Political tensions and deadly protests

The latest reports came just two days after the U.N. condemned excessive violence that killed at least six people and injured another 68 during demonstrations organized by the Catholic church in the capital Kinshasa on January 20 and 21.

Urging the government to investigate the incidents, the organization said: "The rights to freedom of religion, expression and peaceful assembly must be fully respected, in line with the DRC's obligations under international law."

The events followed the killing of nine people and the injuring of at least 98 others during protests last December, the U.N. said.

Other organizations have joined in condemning the killings. World Vision, which has been operating in the country for 30 years, called for restraint and calm.

"We would also like to urge authorities to respect human rights, freedom of worship and rights to demonstrate; and for all those involved to reach a peaceful resolution, World Vision DRC Acting National Director, Edouard Ngoy, said.

DRC has been experiencing a political crisis due to incumbent President Joseph Kabila's alleged attempt to cling on to power.

Joseph Kabila
Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila is bound by the constitution to step down as he has served two consecutive terms in power. However, he refused to leave office when his term expired on 20 December 2016. BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images

Kabila, 46, took power in 2001 after his father, then president, was assassinated. The leader is bound by the constitution to step down as he has served two consecutive terms in power. However, he refused to leave office when his term expired on 20 December 2016.

Amid deadly violence that killed dozens, the government and the opposition bloc agreed that Kabila would stay in power until December 2017, but the country's constitution would not be amended to allow the leader to further prolong his time in office.

Presidential elections have been delayed several times since, however. In November, the vote was further postponed to December 2018 by the electoral commission. The opposition condemned the announcement and urged Kabila to stand down by the end of this year, as previously agreed.

Kasai region conflict

Kasai conflict
A Congolese woman looks on while people wait for their ration of food to be handed out at a food distribution on October 25, 2017 in Kasala, in the restive region of Kasai, central Democratic Republic of Congo. Conflict in the Kasai Provinces between the local militia, Kamwina Nsapu and Government troops have displaced 1.4 million people since August, 2016. As three crop cycles have been missed and displacement continues, sever malnutrition is becoming a present issue. JOHN WESSELS/AFP/Getty Images

Instability in the restive Kasai region has also exacerbated deadly violence in the country.

More than 3,000 people have been killed and 1.4 million displaced since violence erupted in Kasai-Central in August 2016. The conflict began after a rebel leader, known as Kamwina Nsapu, was killed by government forces.

The Kamwina Nsapu is an apolitical chieftaincy position in the area. Jean-Pierre Mpandi called for an armed rebellion against the Kabila government after authorities had refused to recognize his appointment as Kamuina Nsapu in 2011.

Mpandi vowed to rid Kasai-Central province of all state security forces, whom he accused of abusing the local population and withholding a large share of the state's wealth, according to conflict monitor group ACAPS. After Mpandi's death, his followers founded the Kamuina Nsapu militia group, branded by the Congolese government as a terrorist organization.

The group has been accused of killing civilians, recruiting hundreds of child soldiers and targeting state agents, government premises and public buildings, including schools and churches. U.N. investigators have discovered around 80 mass graves.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has said the conflict could warrant an investigation into crimes against humanity and war crimes.