DR Congo to end 'state of siege' in Ituri, North Kivu

DR Congo to end 'state of siege' in Ituri, North Kivu

The announcement comes more than two months ahead of presidential elections.
The state of siege allowed police and soldiers to take over civilian institutions. Photo: AFP

Congo's president said he will gradually ease the state of military rule in the conflict-riddled east and lift some restrictions imposed more than two years ago.

Speaking to the nation on Thursday, President Felix Tshisekedi said there would be a gradual easing of the state of siege in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, which includes ending a curfew, allowing peaceful demonstrations and for people to live normal lives.

The announcement comes more than two months ahead of presidential elections, when Tshisekedi hopes to secure a second term.

The government implemented the state of siege in 2021, allowing military and police to take control from civilian institutions, in an attempt to stem rising violence.

More than 120 armed groups are fighting in the region, mostly for land and control of mines with valuable minerals, while some groups are trying to protect their communities.

“I have taken the firm resolution to lead the populations of the provinces of Ituri and North Kivu towards a gradual and progressive easing of the regime and the restriction of the state of siege,” said Tshisekedi.

Rebel groups

Civil society and rights groups have criticized the state of siege, accusing security forces of exploiting their power against the population.

“It has failed in its stated purpose of rapidly improving the security situation. Military authorities have instead used their extraordinary powers to further undermine people’s rights with impunity, including freedoms of expression and assembly, and the right to justice,” said Amnesty International.

Despite military rule, violence in the region has continued and intensified. At least one militia linked to the Islamic State group has expanded its presence, while rebel groups such as M23 have seized towns, displacing tens of thousands of people.

The United States Embassy in Congo said Thursday that it was greatly concerned about the increased violence in North Kivu province, where M23 is active, and the ensuing loss of lives and displacement. It called on the government to redouble its efforts to protect civilians.