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 , Guest blogger

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    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.
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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.

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:

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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.

3. The arrival of 700,000 Hutu refugees from Rwanda further shattered the stability of the province, dividing the Congolese Hutu and Tutsi communities. Hutu joined the defeated ex-FAR, while Tutsi took part in the Tutsi-led RPF.

157. Between July 1994 and March 1995, over 200,000 Tutsis left the province of North Kivu and returned to Rwanda. Some left of their own volition to benefit from the employment opportunities offered in the army and administration of the new Rwandan regime. Others fled the growing hostility of the Hutu Banyarwanda and ex-FAR/Interahamwe attacks, as well as the resumption of the ethnic war between the Hutu Banyarwanda and the Hunde and Nyanga Mayi-Mayi.

The stance of the Mobutu's army became increasingly ambiguous. They sometimes protected Tutsi, but also victimized them, forcibly evicting many Tutsi living in Goma in early 1996. The army also launched two operations - "Kimia" and "Mbata" - in 1996 to disarm the Hunde, Nande and Nyanga militia that had been formed, but in other cases they collaborated with these militia.

164. On 29 May 1996, FAZ troops massacred over 120 civilians in the village of Kibirizi in the Bwito chiefdom, in the territory of Rutshuru. The FAZ fired at the village using heavy weapons and set fire to several houses.

In June 1996, FAZ troops massacred over one hundred people in the village of Kanyabayonga in the Lubero territory. Most of the victims were killed when the village was shelled using heavy weapons and hundreds of homes were torched. Kanyabayonga was considered a Ngilima stronghold and most of the victims were Nande armed units or civilians suspected of supporting the group.

The team was unable to confirm how many people died in total between 1993 and the beginning of the "real" war in 1996, but they cite an estimate of 70,000 to 100,000 deaths since 1993. In addition, they say 80 percent of livestock in the province was pillaged.

4. At the same time, many other areas of the country were experiencing turmoil because of the transition to democracy. This was especially true for Kinshasa, where security forces rounded up a lot of people, accused them of supporting the opposition, and tortured or killed them. The team has documented four specific incidents in the capital, including:

171. On 4 May 1994, elements of the security forces executed 15 people at the Tshatshi camp. The victims had been kidnapped by the security forces (notably the BSRS) two days previously at a protest march staged by the opposition. A further five individuals who had been kidnapped and transferred to the CIRCO military garrison were released after protests from human rights organisations.

On 27 May 1994, Civil Guard elements executed six UDPS activists in the Maluku district in Nsele commune. Their bodies were loaded on to a boat and dumped in the middle of the river. The activists had been kidnapped that day by the BSRS and taken to the Civil Guard training centre at Mangengenge. On 27 May, the opposition had called a day of ville morte in Kinshasa to demand the return of √Čtienne Tshisekedi to the Premiership. Between 1993 and 1994, the security forces killed a number of UDPS activists, including minors, during their crackdown on the movement.

--- Jason Stearns, an expert on politics and security in Central Africa, blogs at Congo Siasa.

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