The human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo remains grave. Despite a period of optimism in late 2013 that armed violence and attacks on civilians might decrease in eastern Congo, minimal progress has been made to capitalize on these gains. The M23, an armed group whose fighters carried out widespread war crimes during its 19-month rebellion, was defeated in November 2013 after international pressure on the group’s Rwandan backers and the deployment of a United Nations “intervention brigade.” The intervention brigade is part of the peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, and has a mandate to carry out offensive operations against armed groups. In the following weeks, several thousand fighters from other armed groups surrendered. However, the government stalled in implementing a new Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) program for former combatants, leaving the former combatants and their dependents to languish in squalid conditions at regroupment sites.
Numerous armed groups remain active and their fighters continue to carry out brutal attacks on civilians, while few efforts have been made to bring commanders of the M23 and other armed groups implicated in abuses to justice. State security forces have also been responsible for serious abuses, including extrajudicial killings, rapes, and enforced disappearances. While a growing number of soldiers have been arrested and tried for sexual violence and other serious abuses in recent years, impunity remains widespread, especially for senior level officers.
Political tensions have increased across the country with protests against proposals to change Congo’s constitution and allow President Joseph Kabila to run for a third term. In Kinshasa, the capital, and elsewhere, government authorities have sought to silence dissent with threats, violence, and arbitrary arrests against human rights activists, journalists, and opposition political party leaders and supporters.