Congo President Declares Martial Law in Two Eastern Provinces

Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi declared a month of martial law in two eastern provinces amid a surge in violence that has left hundreds of people dead this year.

Congo’s army and police will take control of North Kivu and Ituri provinces from May 6 in an attempt to stem the bloodshed and return order to the region, the president said in an address on national television Monday.

Tshisekedi called on the people of the two provinces “to cooperate closely with the military authorities deployed by denouncing enemies of the people and complicity at whatever level” with those perpetrating violence.

Eastern Congo, which borders Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, has suffered from conflict since civil war erupted in the 1990s. Despite a peace agreement in 2003, at least 120 armed groups are now active in the region, which has a population of about 20 million people, according to the United Nations.

The violence in eastern Congo includes numerous conflicts over control of land and resources, protection of local communities, and rebellions linked to neighboring countries. Ituri and North Kivu are rich in metals like gold and coltan and armed groups including alleged criminal networks in the army sometimes profit from their trade.

Millions Displaced

More than 2.2 million people were displaced in North Kivu province alone through mid-April, mainly because of the violence, according to the UN, which has a peacekeeping force of about 12,000 soldiers in Congo. At the end of 2020, more than 5.2 million people were displaced throughout the country, one of the highest figures in the world, the UN says.

During the period of martial law, Congo’s security forces will have the right to search homes, seize weapons and prohibit travel, Tshisekedi’s spokesman, Kasongo Mwema Yambab Yamba, said in a separate address.

The military and police authorities will also have the right to ban publications and meetings deemed contrary to public order and to prosecute those suspected of violating the peace, he said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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