The Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Joseph Kabila has promised to restore peace and order in the restive Kasai region where numerous lives have been lost in recent months.
The hike in the violence in that region is attributed to President Kabila’s failure to step down at the end of his two-term mandate in December.
The Kamuina Nsapu militia group behind the attacks in the Kasai region has waged war in the region since last August over a customary chieftaincy, but has since spread to four other provinces.
President Kabila made a rare address to parliament, saying he had designated Kasai an “operational sector” and called on militia members to lay down their arms.
“Confronted with these unacceptable atrocities committed against innocent victims … we can no longer defer our responsibility to re-establish state authority in this part of the country by all possible legal means,” Kabila said.
The United Nations has accused both government forces and militia fighters of rights abuses and said it has credible reports that the army has carried out summary executions against suspected militants.
The government denies that its forces employ excessive force but has charged seven soldiers with crimes including for murder and mutilation in connection with a video that appears to show troops massacring suspected militia members.
The U.N. mission in Congo warned in a statement on Wednesday that an intensified military response “will only exacerbate the violence and further place the civilian population in danger”.
The DR Congo’s electoral body said it was not able to hold the elections as planned in November due to logistical problems.
A deal was struck between the government and a section of the opposition to postpone the elections to early this year, though no date has been laid down yet.