Congo Watch: The ethnic conflict in Ituri was one of ICEG's first Genocide Alerts on February 20, 2000

Monday, March 07, 2005

The ethnic conflict in Ituri was one of ICEG's first Genocide Alerts on February 20, 2000

The following editorial appears at the website of Inforce [International Forensic Centre of Excellence for the Investigation of Genocide], a registered charity based at Bournemouth University in England, UK.

Inforce UK assists in the DR Congo

At the request of the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Monuc), a successful preliminary forensic mission organised by the OHR and the DPKO was carried out in December 2002. This was a joint mission between EAAF and Inforce. Inforce was represented by experienced forensic archaeologist Ian Hanson.

The assessment located a number of mass graves in Kisangani and preliminary tests have shown that the corpses were buried between 1994 and 2001. Since 1992, Kisangani, a long-term seat of government, has been controlled by many different groups, including supporters of the late President of Rwanda (Mobutu Sese Seko) and the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie.

The ethnic conflict in Ituri province was the subject of one of the ICEG's first Genocide Alerts on February 20, 2000

Since that time, there have been many more massacres, and there is still no international peacekeeping force because the members of the U.N. Security Council are unwilling to spend the money necessary to send one. The UN Observer Mission in the Congo (MONUC) has an inadequate mandate and personnel to serve as a police force in Ituri province. Instead the armed force on the ground has been Uganda, which has its own agenda in the region and has not been even-handed.

Human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have made appeals about the situation, though they have so far not called the massacres what they are: genocidal massacres. Like the State Department in 1994, they're unwilling to use the G word. So they have generally just called for adherence to international human rights law and an end to impunity. They will undoubtedly continue to issue reports, as will the International Crisis Group.

The sometimes unstated background for every report is the Rwandan genocide, where a group closely related to the Hema (Tutsi) were victims of genocide organized by a group closely related to the Lendu (Hutu). Even the claims of the Lendu to be the "original inhabitants" of the area, which was "invaded" by Nilotic cattle-herders, the Hema, has a chilling resemblance to the so-called Hamitic theory in Rwanda. But the lesson that a robust international police presence is required (furnished with a strong mandate and adequate armed resources) does not seem to have been learned. Instead, the UN and leading powers have again put their faith in negotiations plus a few international troops without the mandate to use force to stop massacres and capture those who commit them.

The timing of these massacres, just as Uganda is due to withdraw its forces, and while the Ituri Pacification Commission is considering its report, indicates that Lendu Power forces are attempting to polarize the population to make a settlement impossible. Ugandan military forces that profit from their occupation of Ituri may be aiding them so the Ugandans will be called upon to remain.
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Also, Inforce points out that killings in the DRC have been reported by many Associated Foreign Press reporters. Below are two examples:

966 Congolese Are Killed in Attacks on Villagers

NAIROBI, April 6 (AP) - At least 966 people were killed in attacks on more than a dozen villages in northeastern Congo last week, United Nations officials said today after a preliminary investigation. It is not clear who carried out the attacks, which occurred in Ituri Province, the scene of some of the worst battles in Congo's 4 1/2-year civil war. Rival fighters, rebel factions and Ugandan troops all have been involved in the fighting in the mineral-rich province.

Witnesses told the United Nations investigators that the attackers included women and children, while others were men in military uniforms, said Manodje Mounoubai, a spokesman for the United Nations mission in Congo.

"This is the worst single atrocity since the start of the civil war," he said.

Officials said the killing occurred over a period of just a few hours on Thursday in the Roman Catholic parish of Drodro and 14 surrounding villages. "The attack started with a whistle blow and lasted between five and eight hours," Mr. Mounoubai said.

United Nations military observers visited the area on Saturday and spoke to witnesses, survivors and local leaders who led them to 20 mass graves, he said.

Another spokesman for the United Nations mission, Hamadoun Touré, said the mass graves had "fresh blood on them." Investigators said some of the survivors were seriously wounded, mostly by machetes but also by bullets.

On Saturday, a Congolese rebel leader, Thomas Lubanga, accused Ugandan troops and fighters from an allied Congolese ethnic group, the Lendu, of carrying out the killings.

A Ugandan military spokesman, Capt. Felix Kulayigye, denied that any Ugandan troops were involved. He said 400 people had been killed in ethnic fighting.

An aid worker and a local leader in Bunia said that Ugandan forces were in the area when civilians were killed, but that they could not say whether the troops took part.

The rebel group draws its support from the Hema, who have traditionally fought with the Lendu for control of land and other resources.
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April 6 (AFP) - Inter-ethnic massacres have claimed "hundreds of lives" in DR Congo's troubled northeastern Ituri region, sources said Sunday.

"They're talking about several hundred dead," General Kale Kaihura, commander of Ugandan troops in the region bordering Uganda, told AFP by telephone from the Ituri town of Bunia.

The casualties were found in the towns of Drodro and Largo and were said to be members of the Hema community. They died in an attack by members of the Lendu ethnic group, Ugandan officers said.

One of them, Capitain Felix Kulayigye, told AFP from Bunia that "between 350 and 400 members of the Hema community" had died. Kulayigye had gone to Drodro and Largo on Saturday as part of a fact-finding commission of Ugandan officials and members of the UN Observer Mission in Congo (MONUC).

The head of the rebel Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), Thomas Lubanga, later confirmed the massacres but said more than 900 people had died. Lubanga, who recently fought Ugandan troops in Ituri, accused the Ugandan army of having joined the Lendu fighters in their attack. But General Kaihura denied this and said he had sent his men to Drodro and Largo after having been informed by local chiefs.

Church officials told AFP they had received conflicting reports from their representatives in Drodro about what was going on in the two towns and said they would speak to the press once further information was coming in.

Ituri is rich in gold, oil, lumber and uranium resources. The region is inhabited by a large number of ethnic groups but nearly all side with either the majority Lendu or the minority Hema. Some 2,000 Ugandan troops, based in the Ituri region at the request of the United Nations to stop interethnic fighting, were to leave the area on April 24 when the mission of the Ituri Pacification Commission (IPC) ends.

The UN Observer Mission in Congo said the team had started its work in Bunia, dividing up into sub-committees dealing with different aspects of the province's difficulties and administration. The IPC is due to work on the issues of reconstruction, security, establishing the rule of law, and humanitarian assistance until April 12.

Two days later, parties involved were scheduled to sign an Ituri Peace and Reconstruction Accord.

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