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Rwanda-DRC – Remembering the nameless: The Mapping Report

Apr 24th, 2018 at 13:36 | By | Category: News analysis, Top news

Thousands, if not millions, of Congolese and Rwandan innocent civilians lost their lives in mass killings that took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in the years before and after the genocide against Tutsi. Many of the circumstances in which they died remained uninspected for a long time, leaving no one to be held accountable.

For the survivors who remained behind, there were many unanswered questions as to why the atrocities happened. It was therefore a relief to many when the UN documented the violent attacks in its 2010 Mapping Report. In honour of all those who perished in the DRC, JamboNews takes a new in-depth look into the Mapping Report and upholds the memory of the countless victims.

The Mapping Exercise

Hutu refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo [then called Zaire] after the destruction/ shelling of their camps with mortars by the Rwandan Patriotic Army/Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation.

In 2005, the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) discovered three mass graves in North Kivu.  Very little was known of its origins nor perpetrators, let alone its victims. This led the UN, in agreement with the Congolese government, to dispatch a team of human rights specialists to the DRC for a so-called mapping exercise in which the team documented the atrocities that had taken place in the country. The mapping exercise started in October 2008 until May 2009.

The UN team was composed of more than 20 human rights officers who collected data though interviews with over 1,280 Congolese and foreign witnesses. In addition, the team collaborated with over 200 Congolese non-governmental organisations (NGOs), religious groups, aid agencies and trade unions, as well as diverse representatives from Congolese authorities in order to gain information concerning the crimes investigated.

The primary goal was to gather basic information on  ‘’the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed within the territory of the DRC’’ between March 1993 and June 2003.  The start period was chosen because of the 20 March 1993 Ntoto market massacre in the province of North Kivu which, according to the report, triggered wider ethnic conflict in the same province. The end date of the investigations was set to June 2003, when a transitional government was formed in the country.

Secondly, the aim of the mapping exercise was to ‘’assess the existing capacities within the national justice system to deal appropriately with such human rights violations’’ and, thirdly, to come up with options that could assist the Congolese government in finding the right transitional justice mechanisms for handling the violations reported.

In general, the mapping was concerned with the violations and the context in which these were committed across the DRC by describing among others the nature of the violations, the victims and their approximate number, and the alleged perpetrators. The UN team carried out the investigation ‘’province by province’’. The inquiries did not go as far as demanding proof beyond reasonable doubt, but settled with documenting violations of ‘’reasonable suspicion’’ following the reliability and credibility of the source together with the validity and reliability of the information itself. As a result, the findings of the Mapping Report are not admissible in a court of law.

Over 600 violent incidents were mapped between March 1993 and June 2003, each verified by at least two independent sources identified in the report. All included violations had reached a certain ‘gravity threshold’ as indicated in the methodology, were included. Murder, mutilation, rape, forced displacement, pillage, destruction of property or economic and social rights violations were also reported. The majority of these crimes have been carried out ‘’in an organised fashion and resulted in numerous victims’’. Moreover, most victims were ‘’non-combatant civilian populations consisting primarily of women and children’’. Each of the atrocities could, if proven before a court of law, amount to ‘’gross violations of human rights and/or international humanitarian law’’, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and/or crime of genocide. The violations are presented chronologically in time periods, organised by provinces with descriptions of the groups involved and the estimated amount of victims.

The rise of ethnic tensions in a regional and political crisis

Starting from the early 90s, ethnopolitical and economic tensions began to build up between Rwandans living in the North Kivu area (Banyarwanda) and the Congolese, namely the Nande, Hundu and Nyanga tribes. The tensions rose following political violence and corruption under the leadership of president Mobutu, in particular his refusal to start up a democratisation process in the country.

The Hutu-Banyarwanda, faced with increasing protest from the local Congolese communities against their political and land rights in the north Kivu, began forming armed groups. Their armed forces attacked Congolese officers in the area of Masisi in May 1991. This led political leaders of the Nande, Hundu and Nyanga tribes to promote the indigenous to form small armed groups alike.  From 1992, violent conflicts between the Hutu-Banyarwanda and armed units from the indigenous Congolese population started.

On 20 March 1993, the violence escalated at the market in the village of Ntoto, when an estimated 500 Hutu-Banyarwanda civilians were attacked and killed by the Mayi Mayi, armed group of the Hunde and Nyanga. The following day, March 21 1993, another group of Hutu Banyarwanda was attacked and killed at another village nearby Ntoto. After these incidents, many more attacks on Hutu civilians occurred in the neighbouring territories of Walikale, Masisi and Rutshuru. The armed groups of the Hutu Banyarwanda started to retaliate by April 1993, killing Congolese civilians and setting public buildings on fire. The tension gradually decreased when the central Congolese government intervened by deploying military assistance to the region and enhancing dialogue in July 1993.

However, the peace did not last long as in July 1994, following the Rwandan genocide, thousands of Rwandan Hutu refugees, including former soldiers of the Forces Armées Rwandaises (ex-FAR) and some militia that were involved in the Tutsi genocide, arrived in North Kivu. Their arrival sparked tensions and caused another “ethnic war” between Congolese tribes and Rwandans. In addition, among the Banyarwanda, there was a split between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups following the rise of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), the Tutsi genocide and the local attacks between the Congolese and the Hutu-Banyarwanda.

In particular the Tutsi population in Goma were reportedly victimized by harassment, threats, intimidation, extortion, rape, pillage and murder by some Congolese armed groups as well as members of the ex-FAR and Hutu-Banyarwanda armed units. In some cases, the Tutsi were attacked by Zairian security forces who were supposed to protect them. Some of the Tutsi victims were ‘’subjected to inhumane and degrading treatments’’ by Congolese authorities, others were burned alive or killed by machete blows by armed Hutu and ex-FAR forces.

On the other hand, the Hutu refugees who fled Rwanda in 1994 and had settled in refugee camps were not safe either. In August 1995 the Zaire army removed thousands of Hutu refugees by force from the camp of Mugunga located near Goma,  and delivered them to Rwandan authorities. The refugees’ belongings were taken by Zairian soldiers and fire was reportedly set to their huts and shops in the camp. In fear of what would happen to them in Rwanda, many of the Hutu refugees fled into the regions of Masisi and Rutshuru. Their presence caused yet another uprise of violence in the region, leading to many conflicts between both Hutu and Congolese tribal armed groups, namely the Mayi-Mayi.

In total, forty incidents of gross violations were reported between March 1993 and June 1996 when Zaire was under the ruling of President Mobutu. Most of the killings involved security forces carrying out ‘’many summary and extrajudicial executions as well as forced disappearances’’. It is reported that many Congolese civilians were tortured, raped and pillaged by the authorities, leading to believe that ‘’the highest powers of government were providing cover for the actions of the security forces – even encouraging them – in order to destabilise their opponents’’.  

Many more conflicts occurred among the Congolese due to political unrest following Mobutu’s dictatorship, with the most serious violations occurring in Kinshasa. On the other hand however, as described above, likewise serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law against civilian populations were reported in the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu, mostly in Katanga, as consequences of the Rwandan genocide.

First Congo War

July 1996 to July 1998 is marked as the period of the First Congo War and the regime of the Alliance des forces démocratiques pour la libération du Congo-Zaïre (AFDL), an armed movement created in Kigali to remove president Mobutu from power. These two years represent the most violent timeframe that was mapped by the UN.

Starting from July 1996, it is documented that the Armée Patriotique Rwandaise (APR), together with armed Tutsi/Banyamulenge groups who had crossed the border from Zaire to receive military training in Rwanda, infiltrated the provinces of North and South Kivu though Burundi and Uganda. The Rwandan troops fought with the Forces Armées Zaïroises (FAZ) who were supported by ex-FAR and Interahamwe militia in several conflicts. A few months into the conflict, on 18 October 1996, the AFDL was created by Rwanda. The movement consisted out of Zairian rebel groups, the APR, the UPDF (Uganda People’s Defence Force) and the FAB (Forces Armées Burundaises). However, evidence shows that it was the Rwandan authorities who prepared and facilitated a ‘’mass military intervention’’ into Zaire ‘’under the guise of a domestic rebellion’’.  In fact, witnesses interviewed by the authors of the Mapping Report stated that it was difficult to distinguish between AFDL armed units and APR soldiers, as both were equally involved in the so-called First Congo War that took place in Zaire between October 1996 and June 1997. The AFDL/APR/FAB soldiers invaded Zaire through North and South Kivu and the Ituri district. They were aided by anti-Mobutu Katengese soldiers and numerous child soldiers. In may 1997, the AFDL and its allies reached Kinshasa and president Laurent-Desire Kabila was declared president of the Republic after renaming Zaire the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Crimes against Tutsi

The infiltration of the APR and the Banyamulenge/Tutsi armed groups in South Kivu led to gross human rights violations against the Banyamulenge and Tutsi civilians who were staying in North and South Kivu, as they were considered part of the ‘’infiltrates’’ by FAZ soldiers. In September 1996,  the FAZ arrested Banyamulenge and Tutsis in the Uvira region after the local community had demonstrated demanding the Tutsis ‘’to leave Zaire’’. Buildings of Banyamulenge-led NGOs were looted. In the same month, an unknown number of Banyamulenge men were murdered and some women were raped. One incident mentions the killing of a minor of Banyamulenge origin at the Kamanyola border post. The minor was reportedly part of a group who were waiting for deportation to Rwanda at the border. He is said to have been killed after asking the FAZ soldiers for water. Other killings involve Banyamulenge/Tutsi being murdered by the FAZ in Fizi territory, some being stabbed to death, others being attacked with machete blows or burned alive. Some men were ‘’bound and dumped in Lake Tanganyika’’. Many women and children are said to have been gang-raped before they were killed. Witnesses said some of the atrocities occurred in front of the local population who did not react.

In one specific incident, around October 6 1996, a group of 15 Banyamulenge had found temporary refuge in the village of Sange in the Uvira territory. Local youths and FAZ units pretended to escort the Banyamulenge to Rwanda, but instead, killed them along the way.

Furthermore, several hundreds of Banyamulenge were killed in Bukavu by the FAZ. In October 1996, Banyamulenge/Tutsi armed groups retaliated by launching attacks. As a result, the killings of the Banyamulenge by Zairian armed forces increased and spread until Kinshasa and the Orientale Province.

Crimes against Hutu

In addition, the AFDL conducted serious attacks against Hutu refugees. Hutus were pursued and killed en masse as they fled through Congo. A 104 incidents against the Hutu were reported to have been carried out with the support of Rwandan, Ugandan and Burundian defence forces, who supplied the AFDL with troops, arms and logistics.

In particular, when reporting on the crimes committed against the Hutus, the UN experts examine whether the violations constitute crimes of genocide. Genocide is defined as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such” according to article 6 of the Rome Statute.  Although the Mapping Team itself reserves the final decision for the court, it does underline certain factual observations that could point in the direction of a Hutu genocide.

Firstly, the Hutu that were located in Zaire/DRC, whether or not coming from Rwanda, can be considered as one ethnic group. A part of the violations that were investigated “suggest that multiple attacks targeted members of the Hutu ethnic group as such, and not only the persons responsible for the genocide committed in 1994 against the Tutsis in Rwanda“. Furthermore, the alleged perpetrators, namely the AFDL/APR, are said to have made no effort to distinguish between Hutu members of the exFAR/Interahamwe and Hutu civilians or refugees. Secondly, if it can be proven that the intention of the perpetrators was indeed to destroy (a part of) the Hutu people in Zaire/DRC, then the crimes committed could amount to genocide. The Mapping Exercise team, based on the scale of the crimes and its many victims, concludes that several incidents “point to circumstances and facts from which a court could infer the intention to destroy the Hutu ethnic group in the DRC in part”. The authors of the report claim that the types of weapons used (“primarily hammers”) and the systematic nature of the killings in the camps, suggest that the atrocities cannot merely be hazards of war or collateral damage.

The majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who were often undernourished and posed no threat to the attacking forces. Numerous serious attacks on the physical or mental integrity of members of the group were also committed, with a very high number of Hutus shot, raped, burnt or beaten. If proven, the incidents’ revelation of what appears to be the systematic, methodological and premeditated nature of the attacks listed against the Hutus is also marked: these attacks took place in each location where refugees had allegedly been screened by the AFDL/APR over a vast area of the country,” the report reads. Also, a blockage of humanitarian aid by the AFDL/APR in order to starve the Hutu refugees in the camps, mainly in the Oriental province, is mentioned.

However, the report emphasizes that in order for the crimes against the Hutu population to be proven as genocide, a court would have to find evidence beyond reasonable doubt that the perpetrators indeed had the intention to destroy (a part of) the Hutu ethnic group as a whole. This is deemed to be difficult as there is a lack of direct evidence and alternative explanations of the attacks could be given instead.

Second Congo War

The Second Congo War began in August 1998 and lasted until January 2001. The war consisted of the Forces Armées Congolaises (FAC), the national army of the DRC operating under president Kabila, fighting different armed groups on the DRC territory for political power. The FAC was assisted by multiple allies such as Zimbabwe, Angola, Chad, Sudan and Namibia as it fought against a rebellion made mainly of the  Armée Patriotique Rwandaise (APR), Ugandan (UPDF) and Burundi army forces (FAB) as well as  some soldiers from the ex-Forces Armées Zaïroises (ex-FAZ).

As the war continued, there was an ongoing creation and splitting of diverse militia groups which caused an endless state of conflict within the DRC. It is reported that “at least eight national armies and 21 irregular armed groups” were involved. Many civilians were killed and Tutsi people were particularly targeted as they were accused by Congolese authorities ‘’ of being in collusion with APR rebels and soldiers’’. Different parties carried out attacks on people who were thought to be of Tutsi origin or who had ‘’ a Tutsi or Rwandan appearance’’, in particular in Kinshasa, Katanga, Orientale Province, East and Kasai Occidental, Maniema and North Kivu.

Crimes against Congolese

In addition, Congolese civilians were attacked massively by Rwandan and Ugandan troops and many lost their lives during the Second Congo War. The Mapping Report documents, among others, the shooting of civilians, rape, pillage and destruction of important buildings. One particular incident reports that, in August 1998,  APR/UPDF soldiers deliberately deprived Kinshasa and a big part of the Bas-Congo province from electricity for about three weeks, and by doing so ‘’ caused the death of an unknown number of civilians, particularly children and hospital patients’.

Horrible acts continued to take place against the Congolese as the involved foreign armies took matters into their own hands. For example, the Angolan Army is said to have killed civilians and pillaged homes and hospitals on a big scale. ‘’ The property pillaged was then sent to Angola by river, road and even by helicopter. The FAA killed any civilians, including women and children, who tried to oppose the atrocities. The scale of the pillaging gave both the victims and witnesses the impression that this was a planned operation’’, reads the report. The Angolan forces also engaged in crimes of rape, where in some cases, it is said that they ‘’ obliged the members of the victims’ families to applaud during the rapes, on penalty of execution’’.

Also, many Congolese political and militant figures were assassinated, raped and/or tortured by the FAC and its allies. Most of the atrocities occurred in prison cells. Some of the political figures were victims of forced disappearances.  On the other hand, APR soldiers and their allies also attacked Congolese civilians, often by indiscriminately opening fire on residents. They killed elderly people, women and children along the way. In one incident, the victims were trapped and attacked with edged weapons after being rounded up ‘’to receive food’’ from the soldiers.

Other Congolese victims were burned alive, mutilated and tortured. The report also mentions the subjection of victims to ‘’cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments’’ by the APR and its allies, ‘’consisting primarily of inserting hot peppers into their genital organs’’. Most of the violations were retaliations or counter-attacks.  Furthermore, civilian properties were massively destroyed.

On 10 July 1999, all parties signed the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement which stated that all foreign agents would leave the DRC. However, the conflict endured until repeated efforts were made by the UN to sign new agreements with Rwanda and Uganda, respectively the Pretoria and Luanda Agreements of 2002, after which the two countries officially began to leave the DRC territory.

Towards Transition

Finally, the report closes with the period of January 2001 to June 2003. These years were marked by ethnic fighting between the Congolese. Conflict between the Hema and the Lendu sparked in the Ituri province. At the same time, the FAC and the Mayi-Mayi rebels fought vigorously in the province of Katanga, both conflicts leaving many civilian casualties. Up to 139 incidents were reported in this period.

After listing the different gross human rights violations committed in this area, the Mapping Team goes on to explain the legal classification of the reported acts of violence. They assess the justice system in the DRC and conclude that, although the Congolese judiciary has been willing, many substandard factors in the nation’s system have led to and still uphold a cycle of impunity.

It is highly needed that the countless and, in many cases, nameless victims and their families find justice for what happened in the DRC in all these years. The Mapping Report by the UN has done a tremendous job in gathering information and classifying the different crimes committed. It is now up to the Congolese and Rwandan people, in accordance with international laws, to make known the atrocities committed against them, often by their own.

Jambonews underlines the content of the Mapping Report and supports all initiatives that aim to bring justice and reconciliation for the suffering that all victims have faced in the DRC . As Rwanda sets about its April commemoration, we strongly believe those mentioned in the Mapping Report should also be commemorated, for their death and ill fate is, in one way or another, linked to the horrific events of the Rwandan war and genocide.

Jane Nishimwe

Jambonews.net

 

 

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