Genocide Charges Amid Congo Violence

Genocide Charges Amid Congo Violence

KINSHASA, Congo (AP) -- A court in southeastern Congo has charged 34 people with genocide in connection with ethnic violence that has killed hundreds over the past two years, the country's government spokesman said Saturday.

The 34 suspects are also facing charges for crimes including murder and rape and have been arrested and presented before the court, Lambert Mende said.

Human Rights Watch released a report this week urging the government to protect civilians while addressing the root causes of the violence between the Luba and Batwa groups. It cited United Nations reports that hundreds of civilians have been killed and tens of thousands displaced while dozens of villages have been burned to the ground since 2013.

"Major fighting" broke out in 2013 in the Manono territory of northern Katanga after the Batwa, an indigenous Pygmy group, started pushing for rights including access to land and freedom from forced labor, the rights group said.

One of the worst incidents occurred in April, when Luba fighters killed at least 30 men, women and children during an attack that destroyed a camp for displaced Batwa, the group said.

Batwa fighters have attacked Luba civilians using bows and arrows and machetes, killing some and kidnapping others, the group said.