The UN Human Rights Council launched an international investigation on Friday into killings and other atrocities in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The 47-member Geneva forum adopted by consensus a resolution brought by African countries which also called on the Kinshasa government to cooperate with the team of international experts.
UN rights chief Zeid Al-Hussein has called repeatedly for the inquiry and said on Tuesday that a militia linked to government has committed a string of ethnically-motivated attacks in recent months, including cutting off toddlers’ limbs and stabbing pregnant women.
Congo’s government has been fighting insurgents in Kasai since August 2016, triggering fears of a wider conflict in the large central African country, which is a tinderbox of ethnic rivalry and competing claims over mineral resources.
The Catholic Church said on Tuesday that 3,383 people have been killed in the Kasai region since October 2016, when fighting between Congolese Security Forces and militia members began.
The UN had previously said hundreds died in the violence.
The church report also said Democratic Republic of Congo’s national army was responsible for destroying 10 villages.
The army’s spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.
The DRC on Tuesday rejected an independent investigation into violence in its Kasai region.
The council will investigate the murder of two UN workers in January.
“Carrying out an investigation that excludes the Congolese authorities would be unacceptable. It would be as if we were not an independent country,” Justice Minister Alexis Mwamba told reporters in Geneva.
Al-Hussein had called on the Council to mandate an investigation after Congo missed a deadline to agree to investigate alleged massacres jointly.
Mwamba said: “that would be a pity, for the simple reason that if a resolution is voted for and doesn’t take us into account, implementing it will be difficult.
“Do you want experts to go into a foreign country without reporting to the national authorities?
“How will they get visas? How will they get access to the countryside? The best way would be to go towards a solution that is acceptable for everyone … If you think you can do the investigation without us, go ahead. (NAN)