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Highlights from leaked UN draft report on Congo atrocities: 1993-1996

Guest blogger Jason Stearns offers highlights of the period 1993-1996 from a leaked UN draft report that chronicles mass atrocities in the Congo between 1993 and 2003.

By Jason StearnsGuest blogger / August 27, 2010

A fighter from the FDLR rebel group watches over civilians ordered to destroy a bridge at the village of Peti in eastern Congo in 2009. The Hutu extremist group includes former Interahamwe fighters who committed the 1994 Rwandan genocide before fleeing into the lawless wilds of eastern Congo, where they have been at the root of 15 years of unrest.

Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters

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As opposed to what some press accounts may have you believe, the UN mapping report is not a report on the Rwandan genocide of Hutu refugees in the Congo. The sections on the massacre of refugees is a small part of a 565-page report that chronicles many different mass atrocities between 1993 and 2003.

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The purpose of the report is to jump-start the transitional justice process in the Congo. Other than a deeply flawed Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), nothing has been done to hold those accountable for the hundreds of thousands of violent deaths accountable. The report recommends a new TRC and a mixed tribunal to be set up to investigate and try the worst crimes, staffed by Congolese and foreign judges and prosecutors.

But you need to know what the report talks about, I don't expect you to read 565 pages. Here are the first highlights of the report, chronicling the period between 1993-1996. This period was less intensively documented, I think, as the team focused much of its efforts on the wars:

1. In 1990, Mobutu opened his dictatorship up to multiparty democracy. His main challenge came from civil society and particularly Etienne Tsisekedi's UDPS party, which had strong backing from the Kasaian community. In order to divide the opposition, Mobutu pitted the Katangan opposition against the Kasaian community in that province - hundreds of thousands of Kasaians had moved to Katanga to work on the railroads, in the mines and in public administration. Governor Katanga Kyungu wa Kumwanza rallied his JUFERI youth militia to attack Kasaians and chase them out of the provinces. The team indicates that as many as 780,000 Kasaians could have been expelled from the province between 1993 and 1995, many of them crammed onto freight trains, "coffins on rails," in which many died. Thousands died in these cars, due to unsanitary conditions in IDP camps and at the hands of JUFERI thugs.

2. Tensions between local communities in North Kivu exploded into violence in March 1993. The main fault line was between "indigenous" and "immigrant" populations, the latter composed of descendents of Rwandan Hutu and Tutsi who had come to the area during the colonial period to flee famine in Rwanda and to work on colonial farms. These "immigrants" made up the majority of the population in Masisi and spilled over into neighboring Ruthsuru and Walikale territories. In March 1993, spurred on by speeches by the governor, militias from the Hunde and Nyanga communities killed dozens of Hutu in Ntoto and Buoye villages, Walikale territory. The violence quickly spread, and Hutu began forming their own militias and carrying out revenge killings, sometimes with the help of the Zairian army (FAZ):

153. On 22 July 1993, armed Hutu units supported by the FAZ killed at least 48 people, most of them Hunde but also three Hutus, in the village of Binza and the surrounding area, in the north of the Masisi territory. The victims were shot or killed by blows from machetes or spears. According to one eyewitness, some of the victims were maimed and a pregnant woman was disemboweled. Several other villages in the vicinity of Binza were attacked during this period, including Kalembe on 25 July 1993.

The team investigated seven such incidents in which hundreds of Hutu, Hunde and Nyanga were killed. Doctors Without Border put forward a figure, which the team cites, of 250,000 displaced and between 6,000 and 15,000 killed between MArch and May 1993 alone.

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