Killing of Congolese civilians highlights urgency of UN summit
At least 12 people were killed Nov. 6 in the Congo. Today, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon called for rebels to restore the ceasefire.
The reported murder of at least a dozen civilians by rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo has underscored the urgency of today's summit of African and UN leaders, which will attempt to restore a regional ceasefire.Skip to next paragraph
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Reuters reports that the bodies of at least 12 people were found by UN peacekeepers and journalists in the village of Kiwanja, the day after Congolese Tutsi rebels, led by Gen. Laurent Nkunda, attacked the town, which the rebels said contained members of the pro-government Mai-Mai militia.
Kiwanja residents said Mr. Nkunda's National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) rebels had carried out the killings after taking control of the village in the latest flare-up of a conflict that traces its origins to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
"They knocked on the doors, when the people opened, they killed them with their guns," said Simo Bramporiki, aged around 60, who said his wife and child were killed last night.
Nkunda denied his men had killed civilians.
"It was against the Mai-Mai (militia) and many were in civilian dress," he told Reuters by telephone.
Reuters adds that a UN spokesman said the rebels could still be guilty of war crimes if those killed were Mai-Mai who had surrendered.
Bloomberg reports that Human Rights Watch put the total number of civilian deaths in Kiwanja at 20, with another 33 wounded, and notes that reports of the violence come as African heads of state met with UN officials in Kenya to try and restore peace to the region.
The summit in the capital, Nairobi, is being attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon, Congolese President Joseph Kabila, and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame, among other African leaders. New York-based Human Rights Watch said while a diplomatic solution to the crisis is being sought, civilians in the area "need urgent protection and security now."
CNN reports that the talks are meant to restore the ceasefire between Kinshasa and Congolese rebels, which has been undermined by a string of attacks, including that on Kiwanja. Mr. Ban called for the ceasefire to be restored.
The secretary-general "calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of forces to positions held prior to the resumption of fighting on 28 August," the statement said, referring to when the latest wave of fighting broke out.
Ban "urges the armed groups involved in the ongoing fighting to support the current efforts to find a political solution to the crisis in the eastern DRC and to avoid activities that result in the further displacement and suffering of the civilian population."