The Democratic Republic of the Congo Catholic church released a report on Tuesday, June 20, stating that at least 3383 people, many of them women and children, were killed in the Kasai region (central DRC) since October 2016 due to the continuing conflict between the Kamuina Nsapu militia and government forces. Church officials reported that the army destroyed ten villages in an attempt to stamp out the insurrection. The church also accused the Kamuina Nsapu militia of killing hundreds of people, destroying four villages, and attacking church property in order to drive out government troops. Ongoing instability in Kasai has triggered fears of a wider conflict in a country already torn apart by ethnic rivalries and competing claims over mineral resources.
The Kamuina Nsapu militia has been mounting an insurgency against the government in Kasai-Central province since April 2016. Fighting escalated following the death of a leader in clashes with the army in August 2016, and fighting has since spread into Kasai, Kasai-Oriental, and Lomami provinces. The ongoing crisis in the Kasai region brings the estimated total number of the DRC’s internally displaced persons (IDPs) to 2 million.
Attacks by the group, which target police, military officials, and civilians perceived as supporting or representing the government, have become commonplace in these areas in recent months. Moreover, the United Nations has reported 40 mass graves in the region, as well as the abduction and murder of two UN researchers (one Swedish and one US national) investigating violations of international sanctions and humanitarian law in March.
The political and security situation in DRC is complex. Travelers should consider making contingency plans in the event of violent political demonstrations, which should be avoided, and keep abreast of the developing situation. Although travel is permissible in some areas, other areas may be considered off limits. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to travel.