Political figures and members of DR Congo’s civil society urged authorities on Wednesday to lift emergency measures in two eastern provinces plagued by armed groups.
North Kivu and Ituri provinces have been under a “state of siege” since May 2021 under a government initiative aimed at fast-tracking security measures against the groups.
Under this initiative, senior civilian officials have been extensively replaced by military or police officers.
In a collective statement, 132 prominent figures urged the government to consider “the sole option… of quite simply lifting the state of siege,”in the region.
The appeal was made following a three-day evaluation involving national and provincial elected officials, traditional leaders, and senior representatives from religious and community organizations, convened by President Felix Tshisekedi.
The statement came from participants who hail from the two provinces.
The “state of siege” has faced increasing criticism in recent months for its inability to curb the violence and, as reported by Amnesty International, for contributing to human rights violations.
“Everyone knows that the state of siege is a failure,” said Jean-Claude Katende, head of the African Association for Human Rights, or ASADHO.
In an article published on Wednesday in the national newspapers, former North Kivu governor Julien Paluku, who currently serves as the industry minister, pointed out that one of the region’s most dangerous groups, the M23, “reemerged under the state of siege.”
The mainly Tutsi group has captured large areas of land in North Kivu since resurfacing from inactivity in late 2021.
The government of DR Congo alleges that neighboring Rwanda is supporting the organization, a claim that Kigali refutes.
The M23 is among the numerous armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a region marked by over a hundred such groups, many stemming from conflicts that erupted at the close of the 20th century.