Congolese civilians carry their belongings as they flee near the Congolese border with Rwanda after fightings broke out in Kibumba, outside Goma in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo May 24, 2022. REUTERS/Djaffar Sabiti

DAKAR, June 17 (Reuters) – Security has deteriorated in two provinces in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo since the government placed them under military rule last year, U.N. experts said on Friday.

The government declared a state of siege in April 2021 in North Kivu and Ituri provinces in response to escalating attacks by militias, including repeated massacres by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which has links to Islamic State.

The state of siege placed the provinces under the authority of military governors. Dozens of militias have remained active in North Kivu and Ituri since the end of a major regional war in 2003.

Neighbouring Uganda also sent troops in November to conduct joint operations with Congolese forces against the ADF, which originated in Uganda.

“Despite a state of siege … the security and humanitarian situation in the two provinces deteriorated,” said a report submitted by the U.N. Group of Experts on Congo to the Security Council.

It said the ADF had been dispersed by military operations but remained resilient, stepping up its attacks on civilians.

“This escalation in the number of attacks and killings of civilians was part of ADF reprisal tactics, which were also aimed at dissuading operations against ADF,” it said.

According to data from Kivu Security Tracker, which maps violence in eastern Congo, the ADF was responsible for 1,050 violent deaths in 2021, up from 599 in 2020.

Congo’s government spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He has previously denied the state of siege has been a failure, pointing to successes on the battlefield.

Violence by other militias is also on the rise, the experts said.

The M23 rebels, who captured swaths of eastern Congo in 2012 before being beaten back the following year by Congolese troops and U.N. peacekeepers, launched a major offensive last month that has captured several strategic towns. Read full story

Congo accuses neighbouring Rwanda, which invaded twice in the 1990s, of backing the rebels and sending its own troops across the border. Rwanda denies this.

The U.N. experts did not reach a conclusion on whether Rwanda was supporting the M23, although research for the current report concluded before the rebels stepped up their offensive.