UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
U N I T E D N A T I O N S Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for Central and Eastern Africa
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IRIN Update No. 449 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 1 July 1998)
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO-RWANDA: UN report accuses Kinshasa, Kigali
A UN human rights report, based on an aborted investigation into alleged massacres in DRC, has concluded that forces loyal to President Laurent-Desire Kabila deliberately killed Rwandan Hutu refugees during the campaign which overthrew late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and brought Kabila to power just over one year ago. The report by a team of human rights experts called for an international tribunal to try cases of "serious violations of human rights". The report, which was given to the Security Council yesterday (Tuesday), said Rwandan refugees were massacred in large numbers, even though many of them were not armed extremists. However, it stopped short of calling the killings genocide, saying evidence pointed in that direction but further probes would be needed. In a cover letter transmitting the report to the Security Council, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan highlighted the team's conclusion that the killings by the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL) constituted crimes against humanity as did the denial of humanitarian assistance to Rwandan Hutu refugees.
Annan withdrew the team in April because of the government's "total lack of cooperation". The team had gone in with a mandate to investigate violations of human rights and international humanitarian law which were alleged to have been committed in DRC up to 31 December 1997.
Rwandan army accused
The report detailed evidence of current and former Rwandan army involvement in the massacres and Congolese government attempts to cover them up. The report stated that from mid-October to mid-November 1996, the AFDL and elements of the Rwandan army (RPA) attacked camps in North and South Kivu housing refugees and, in most if not all cases, military elements hostile to the government of Rwanda. The report said obstacles raised by Kabila's government made it impossible to confirm or disprove most of the allegations, but said it was able to confirm that current and former Rwandan army soldiers took part in some killings.
"Hundreds of unarmed persons were captured and executed as a result of the attack on Mugunga camp in November 1996, and many unarmed civilians were hunted down and executed after fleeing from the attacks on this and other camps," the report states. The massacres were committed by the AFDL "in some cases with the participation of Mayi-Mayi militia". "These killings violate international humanitarian law and, because of their systematic nature, may well constitute crimes against humanity," the report says. According to the report, the AFDL also carried out a number of massacres of civilians in Zairean Hutu villages in North Kivu around November 1996 which also constituted serious violations of international humanitarian law.
The report added that in May 1997, hundreds of unarmed Rwandan Hutus were massacred in Mbandaka and the neighbouring village of Wendji by AFDL troops apparently under effective RPA command. "Forensic evidence indicates that bodies were removed from a mass grave site in Mbandaka, corroborating testimony that an effort was made to 'clean up' such sites prior to the arrival of the team." The AFDL also forced large numbers of civilians to flee into scarcely-populated areas in life-threatening conditions and denied relief organisations access to ill and wounded non-combatants - "another act which may constitute a crime against humanity."
The report finds possible evidence of genocide, noting that the attacks on the camps in North Kivu in 1996 "reveal the intent to eliminate those Rwandan Hutus who had remained in Zaire."
Among its recommendations, the report states that if a new investigative body is established, it should focus on massacres which occurred during inter-ethnic fighting in North and South Kivu beginning in March 1993; serious violations of human rights allegedly committed within the camps established in eastern Zaire from July 1994 to October 1996; the extent of RPA involvement since October 1996; the extent of foreign troops' participation in serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law during the armed conflict; and the intent underlying the massacre of Rwandan and Zairean Hutus beginning in October 1996.
DRC, Rwanda dismiss report as misleading
The report was presented in advance to the governments of Rwanda and the Democratic
Republic of the Congo. In part of a 32-page reply, Kinshasa called the report "a dangerous document that, contrary to the ideals of international peace and security propagated by the United Nations, exacerbates the ethnic hatred between Hutu and Tutsi by oversimplifying the complex problems which plague the Great Lakes region."
In a letter to the Secretary-General, DRC Ambassador Andre Mwamba Kapanga called the report a "collection of unfounded allegations".
Kigali replied that the report was "emotive" and that it lacked credible testimonies. "Publication of such an incomplete, biased and totally misleading report does not serve the human rights cause, and would compromise the possibility of getting to the truth of what happened," the Rwandan reply states.
The Rwandan government pointed out that "out of the 98 main paragraphs of the report, 48 of them dwelt on the frustrations of the commission's members as if that constituted a part of their terms of reference." It said it "categorically rejected and was deeply shocked by the insinuation in the report that Rwandan government soldiers had committed any violation of human rights against a section of its own people or any other in former Zaire." The Rwandan government "regrets the existence of an intensive and selective propaganda, as well as some lobbying work carried out by some UN members over the report before it was even released."
Kabila says report "pure fabrication"
Urging all Africans to reject the report, Kabila told French radio in an interview the report was full of "pure fabrications and lies". He said the "false report" had been compiled by "backward-looking birds of the night, who are champions of scheming and misinformation" who until recently had supported Mobutu right up until his regime's "death rattle".
RWANDA: Food distributions continue as number of internally displaced increase
The number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Gisenyi prefecture has recently increased from 47,000 to 70,000, the latest WFP emergency report said. WFP in collaboration with other UN agencies, NGOs and local authorities is currently distributing food for displaced people in Gisenyi, in northwest Rwanda. The UN food agency declared that security was still a serious concern. Two attacks on camps of IDPs and refugees have been reported in recent weeks. It added that following a request from the government, food distributions had also now started for 61,000 beneficiaries in Gikongoro prefecture.
UGANDA: Cholera epidemic reaches 38,000 cases, 1,500 deaths
Kitgum is the latest district in Uganda to report cases of cholera in an epidemic affecting 39 Ugandan districts. Of a total of 38,697 cases in the current epidemic, 1,576 deaths have been reported, according to WHO. The average case fatality rate of 4.07 percent is higher than international standards suggest is normal. Some western areas of Uganda, particularly the area of Nebbi, receive patients from DRC, the report received by IRIN this week stated.
KENYA: EU lifts fish ban
The European Union yesterday lifted a ban it imposed on fish imports from East Africa and Mozambique on 16 January. EU Head of Delegation in Nairobi Lutz Salzman told IRIN that the ban had been lifted in the entire region after required health conditions had been met. The EU imposed the ban on fresh fish after a cholera outbreak around Lake Victoria.
HUMANITARIAN: International campaign launched against the use of child soldiers
A new coalition of international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) against the use of child soldiers was launched yesterday in Geneva and New York. According to latest estimates, more than 300,000 children under 18 years of age are fighting in armed conflicts around the world and hundreds of thousands more are members of armed forces who could be sent into combat at any moment. Although most recruits are over 15 years of age, significant recruitment starts at 10 years, and the use of even younger children has been recorded.
The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers (www.rb.se) has been formed in response to the failure of negotiations within the UN to agree a prohibition on keeping children out of armed forces, the group said in a statement sent to IRIN. The Coalition is calling for the adoption and implementation of an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child to raise the minimum age for military recruitment and use in hostilities to 18 years. The current international minimum age is only 15 years although most countries do not accept under-18s in their armed forces.
Nairobi, 1 July 1998 15:00 GMT
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Subject: Central and Eastern Africa: IRIN Update 449 for 1 July 1998.7.1 Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.91.980701175134.9577Aemail@example.com>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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