The United Nations opened an investigation on Friday into slayings in central Democratic Republic of Congo, after the country’s Catholic church said violence had killed more than 3,300 people there in the past eight months.
The U.N. Human Rights Council, made up of 47 member states, adopted the resolution by consensus during a meeting in Geneva on Friday. The resolution calls on U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein to dispatch a team of international experts to help investigate alleged human rights violations and abuses in Congo’s central Kasai region, including extrajudicial killings, torture and rape.
During the meeting, Congo’s ambassador Zenon Mukongo Ngay told the council his government would cooperate by providing “technical and logistical support,” but that the Congolese government will maintain “leadership” in the probe.
The Holy See’s apostolic nunciature in Kinshasa, the only Vatican representation in Congo, revealed in a report issued Monday that there have been 3,383 “reported deaths” from violence in Kasai province since last October – a figure far higher than what the U.N. has tallied.
“We obtained these figures from reliable sources,” Father Donatien Nshole, spokesman for the National Episcopal Conference of Congo, told La Croix on Thursday.
“We set up a system to keep track of all violence perpetrated since the beginning of the conflict,” Nshole explained to the daily French Catholic newspaper. “The system is based on the structures of the various dioceses where information is gathered by diocesan commissions. The Catholic Church has a presence in all Congolese villages and thus has access to areas not covered by the U.N.”
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”fr” dir=”ltr”><a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/RDC?src=hash”>#RDC</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Kasai?src=hash”>#Kasai</a> : selon le document de travail de la nonciature, il y a 20 villages détruits dont 10 par l’armée, 4 par les miliciens <a href=”https://t.co/VHDuKwBcLQ”>pic.twitter.com/VHDuKwBcLQ</a></p>— Sonia Rolley (@soniarolley) <a href=”https://twitter.com/soniarolley/status/877074541528461312″>June 20, 2017</a></blockquote>
<script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>
The U.N. said its officials discovered 42 mass graves in April, but the world body has put the death toll at about 400 so far. Meanwhile, more than 1.3 million people have been displaced within the country, as well as thousands forced to flee across its borders, due to the conflict, according to the latest figures from the U.N.
Large scale violence broke out in the Kasai region in August 2016 when a customary chief was killed by Congolese armed forces. A local militia determined to avenge the killing has since committed widespread atrocities against civilians and has recruited children into its ranks, according to the U.N.