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Kidnappings skyrocket in eastern DRCongo

democratic republic of congo mapKidnappings skyrocketed this year in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where at least 175 people were taken hostage for ransom, apparently by current and ex members of armed groups, Human Rights Watch said.

“The alarming increase in kidnappings is a grave threat to the people of eastern Congo,” the US-based rights group said in a report released Wednesday.

“Congolese authorities should urgently establish a special police unit to help rescue hostages and investigate and prosecute those responsible.”

HRW said the majority of cases it documented were in Rutshuru territory in restive North Kivu, where witnesses said many of the heavily armed kidnappers wore military clothes and appeared “to belong or have belonged to one of the many armed groups active” in the area.

Most of the kidnappings took place in areas once controlled by the Rwandan-backed M23 rebel group defeated and disbanded in late 2013. In all, some 50 Congolese and foreign armed groups are active in the east bordering Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

Though a new national disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme (DDR) has been decided, it is yet to be launched, leaving in limbo fighters who surrendered over the past two years now waiting in regroupment camps “often in abysmal conditions”, HRW said.

“Some abandoned the camps, tired of waiting, and went back to their armed groups or turned to other criminal activity, including kidnapping.”

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