UN revises toll from DR Congo's Kishishe massacre to 171

Tuesday February 07 2023
Congolese soldier walks in Kanyaruchinya, Goma in eastern DR Congo

A Congolese soldier walks in Kanyaruchinya, north of the city of Goma in eastern DR Congo as war-displaced people flee south. PHOTO | ALEXIS HUGUET | AFP



M23 rebels killed at least 171 civilians during a massacre in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in November, the United Nations said Tuesday, revising an earlier reported toll of 131. 

In a document summarising abuses committed in the DRC last year, the UN Joint Human Rights Office said the M23 had executed at least 171 civilians in the settlements of Kishishe and Bambo, in eastern North Kivu province. 

The massacre provoked outrage in the DRC, where the Tutsi-led M23 has captured swathes of territory in North Kivu since late 2021 and displaced hundreds of thousands of people. 

A preliminary UN probe initially found that 131 civilians had been killed.

Figures vary widely


Reported figures for the scale of the massacre vary widely. 

The DRC's government initially said that some 300 had been killed, for example, while the M23 said that eight civilians were killed by stray bullets.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch said in a report that the M23 had executed at least 22 people in Kishishe and killed another 10 while searching for enemy militia members.

Elsewhere in its statement on Tuesday, the UN noted that it had recorded nearly 6,000 human-rights violations in the DRC last year — marking a 15-percent reduction compared to 2021.

State forces abuses fall

Abuses committed by state forces also fell, the UN said, with 2,400 recorded cases last year compared to 3,162 in 2021. 

Armed groups committed about 60 percent of the recorded abuses. About 85 percent of the total number of violations occurred in four provinces in the DRC's volatile east. 

Despite the overall drop in recorded rights violations, there had been a "substantial increase" in the number of summary executions, the UN said.

Attacks on civilians

Although it did not specify a figure, it attributed the rise to an uptick on attacks on civilians in Ituri and North Kivu provinces. 

The UN pointed to the M23, Codeco, Nyatura and Allied Democratic Forces armed groups as being responsible for the trend.

The M23 resumed fighting in late 2021 after lying dormant for years, claiming that the DRC had failed to honour a pledge to integrate its fighters into the army.

Its re-emergence sparked a crisis in the country's east and led to a spike in tensions with neighbouring Rwanda, which Kinshasa accuses of backing the group.

UN experts, the United States and other western states agree with Kinshasa. Rwanda denies the accusation.