Congo (Kinshasa): Recent Documents, 1/2, 9/15/97

Congo (Kinshasa): Recent Documents, 1/2, 9/15/97

Congo (Kinshasa): Recent Documents, 1

Date distributed (ymd): 970915

Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: Central Africa

Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +security/peace+

Summary Contents:

This posting contains two documents, a background briefing from the UN's Integrated Regional Information Network for the Great Lakes (IRIN) on the escalating conflict in eastern Congo's Kivu region and an action alert from the World Organization against Torture on threats to human rights defenders, particularly in Maniema, southeastern Congo. The next posting contains recent statements from UN headquarters relating to the Democratic Republic of Congo.


U N I T E D N A T I O N S Department of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for the Great Lakes; Tel: +254 2 622147; Fax: +254 2 622129; e-mail:


Mai Mai warriors, backed by soldiers from the defeated Rwandan and former Zairean armies, are reported to be playing a central role in a fresh outbreak of insecurity in the Masisi region in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (former Zaire). Meanwhile, a second group of fighters, with vaguer origins and believed to be operating independently, has emerged in the Fizi region of South Kivu. The situation is further complicated by reports of growing tensions between units of Rwandan and Congolese troops which have sparked sporadic exchanges of gunfire and unconfirmed reports of deaths.

Humanitarian sources say the situation in the region is now confused and chaotic, but overall it appears anti-Tutsi groups, made up of Rwandan, Burundian, and Congolese fighters, are forming loose alliances directed at the Tutsi-dominated forces of President Laurent-Desire Kabila and his Rwandan allies.

Aid workers report both the towns of Goma and Bukavu to be "very tense" with gunfire heard at night and reinforcements of strategic points by government troops. One Bukavu-based aid worker said Bunyakiri, about 80 km north of Bukavu, was occupied by rebels at the end of last week and attacks were also reported in the towns of Sake and Minova. Other reports said the government had moved heavy artillery to Tshibanda, some 35 km from the town on the main Bukavu-Bunyakiri axis.

Mai Mai fighters, sporting necklaces of "gri-gri" (charms) and heavily influenced by witchcraft, earlier this year helped the-then rebel army of Kabila take power, but fell out shortly afterwards as his administration sought to impose the authority of central government in the area. Named after the Swahili word for water (maji) with which they sprinkle themselves before combat believing it brings immortality, their reemergence coincides with the creation last month of a new rebel group 'Alliance pour la Resistance Democratique' (Democratic Resistance Alliance - DRA) with the stated aim of 'liberating' eastern DRC.

Local sources say the new movement is made up largely of Bembe peoples and one of its leaders is Celestin Anzaluni Bembe, a politician from the Fizi region who held the post of 'first vice-president' in Mobutu's last government and is allegedly well-known for his anti-Tutsi sentiments. The movement, reportedly based in Tanzania, groups opposition forces from the DRC, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda, according to the DRC newspaper 'La Reference Plus'. Another leader is reportedly Leonard Nyangoma, head of Burundi's rebel Conseil national pour la defense de la democratie (CNDD), dedicated to the overthrow of the Tutsi-led government in Bujumbura. Africa Confidential also recently reported that another Bembe-dominated opposition group -- the Conseil de resistance et de liberation du Kivu -- was recently set up in Kigoma.

In Fizi, the rebels are thought to be local people in alliance with Burundian Hutus from the CNDD's armed wing, the Front pour la defense de la democratie (FDD), supplemented by some former soldiers from Rwanda's defeated Hutu-run army, the Forces Armees Rwandaises (FAR), and their hardline allies from the Interahamwe militia. A few stragglers from the defeated Forces Armees Zairoises (FAZ) of former Zairean president Mobutu Sese Seko could also be involved. One leader of the Fizi group, and reputed to be a founding member of the DRA, has taken the name of Simba and is known as Charles Simba.

Regional experts say many local rebel groups, resentful at the dominance of the Banyarwanda Tutsis within Kabila's army, could use the name 'Simba' and have little or no contact with each other. 'Simba' -- meaning 'lion' and implying strength -- has been employed by several rebel groups over the years in former Zaire and was the name of 1960s rebellion, in which Kabila played a leading role and which held Kisangani for a short while before central government reimposed its writ.

Regional sources say there is currently no evidence the groups in Fizi and Masisi are coordinating their attacks. Both areas are in fact now home to several distinct rebel movements which may occasionally clash as well as fight alongside each other. Consequently, they say it is not possible at the moment to gauge whether the current unrest poses a serious threat to the new government.

Much of the region is now a no-go area for UN personnel. UN staff in Goma are not allowed to move outside the town. In Goma, a UN curfew is also in operation from 23.00 hours to five am local time. No curfew is in place in Bukavu, but over the weekend NGOs reported several attacks on vehicles using the main Bukavu-Uvira link road. The sources also report the military commander of Bukavu airport and his bodyguard were killed in an attack lasting several hours on the night of September 4-5. It was not clear who was responsible for the attack. Local sources say forces from the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) currently hold the airport. Increasing tensions between Congolese troops and RPA soldiers, who supported Kabila's Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (AFDL) takeover of the country, have also been cited as one of the causes of growing insecurity in the area. The shooting in Goma appeared to coincide with the arrival of 10th brigade Congolese troops allegedly to replace Rwandan soldiers.

Under the headline, "War resumed with a vengeance in the East", the DRC daily 'Le Palmares' newspaper also reported the Mai Mai -- made up of Hunde, Tembo, Nande and Nyanga local 'autochtone' tribes with a long history of conflict with the Tutsi and Hutu people -- had launched an offensive against "Rwandan populations" in the Masisi area. Regional analysts say Congolese Tutsi support for both the AFDL and RPA has increased the suspicion of the 'autochtones' (original peoples of the region) within the Mai Mai towards the Congolese people of Rwandan origin. The paper reported another cause of their anger against the government as being the recent assassination of one of their leaders, Major Kara Mbengi, in Kololo camp in Kinshasa. The Congolese Press Agency (ACP) reported a delegation led by North Kivu provincial governor Leonard Kanyamuhunga Gafundi visited Masisi last week and called for calm and peaceful coexistence in the area.

The agency blamed the current "unstable" situation on a "few Mai Mai pockets of resistance". The agency also said the South Kivu governor had met a Mai Mai delegation in Bukavu on August 30 and a list of their grievances had been passed on to the provincial authorities. The agency said the Mai Mai delegation admitted to siding with Hutus from Rwanda's ex-army and militias in the Kalehe area, but had pledged to renounce all "underground activities".

Masisi has for several years been a hotbed of conflict between the Banyarwanda, who comprise both Hutus and Tutsis, and the 'autochtones' -- most of whom are from the Hunde ethnic group although Tengo and Yanga are also present. Between March and July 1993, serious fighting took place and some 14,000 Banyarwanda were killed while several thousand others fled to Rwanda. After the 1994 Rwandan genocide the local tribes -- infected by the propaganda of escaping Rwandan Hutu killers -- tended to target their attacks more on Banyarwanda Tutsis, prompting further exoduses. Indeed, another explanation for some of the current unrest has been the return of expelled Masisi Tutsis who -- helped by fellow Tutsi soldiers in the RPA -- have returned to reclaim their properties.

The conflicts in Masisi also played an important role in sparking the rebellion by South Kivu Tutsis which ultimately ousted Mobutu from power. In 1996, these Zairean Tutsis, known as the Banyamulenge, came under attack from both the Zairean army and local people. The Banyamulenge, keenly aware of the fate of their Masisi kinsmen, were well-prepared. They fought back and helped by their Rwandan army allies quickly secured control of the region. Forming alliances with other anti-Mobutu groups, including the Mai Mai, they swept through the country and installed Kabila in power in May 1997.

On Monday, Kabila warned he would not tolerate the reorganisation of anti-government forces. A report from the Rwanda News Agency, monitored by the BBC, quoted him as saying he would quickly take action to crush "islets of harmful forces which spilled blood in Rwanda (and) in our country (and) which are reorganising".

Nairobi, 10 September 1997


[Via the UN DHA Integrated Regional Information Network. The material contained in this communication may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts from this report should include attribution to the original sources mentioned, not simply "DHA".]



RDC 001 / 9708 / OBS 007

Harassment/Detention/Torture Democratic Republic of Congo (ex Zaire)

28th August 1997

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the FIDH and OMCT, requests your URGENT intervention in view of the following situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (ex Zaire).

Brief description of the facts

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders is gravely concerned at the situation of violence and insecurity in Congo-Kinshasa (ex Zaire) and more especially with the fate of human rights defenders, particularly members of the AZADHO ( Association for the defence of Human Rights), CRONGD (Regional Council of Development NGOs) and the Haki Za Binadamu (Human Rights) in the province of Maniema in the South-East of the country.

Recent reports tell of a state of systematic repression on the part of the local authorities of the AFDL against members of non-governmental organizations involved in the promotion and defence of human rights in the province of Maniema.

Thus, on about August 15th Sr. Bertin LUKANDA, President of the CRONGD/Maniema and member of the Haki Za Binadamu organization, was arrested by agents of the AFDL when he was about to visit various organizations in the province as part of the follow-up of the "Meeting of the civilian society of Kinshasa" (June 1997).

Sr. Bertin LUKANDA was accused of being an agent in the service of "the enemies of the people's liberation" and the agents of the AFDL beat him up on the pretext that he had some hunting rifle cartridges. Apart from the fact that this could not be verified, possession of such cartridges in this wooded area is quite common. Whatever the case, no information was given concerning the charges against Sr. LUKANDO who has been taken to Kindu where he is being held without being allowed to see a legal representative or, apparently, a doctor inspite of the fact that his health gives rise to concern.

On the other hand, while Sr. LUKANDO was being detained, other agents of the AFDL also arrested the Executive Secretary of the CRONGD/Maniema, Sr. Ramazani DIOMBA, the reasons for this being still unknown. The Observatory fears that he may have been tortured since he has been passing blood in his urine and had to be hospitalized for a period of 5 days.

In addition to this, agents of the AFDL are reported to have searched the headquarters of the CRONGD/Maniema without a warrant and beaten up an employee of the secretariat whose name has not been revealed.

The information communicated to the Observatory lead to the conclusion that the systematic repression against the responsible staff of the NGOs in Maniema is aimed essentially at preventing them from testifying before the United Nations Investigating Committee which has announced that it would begin its work in the region of Kivu, concerning the allegation of massacres committed within the Eastern part of the country.

This also gives rise to serious fears for the safety of the members of AZADHO and other non governmental organizations in the province of Maniema, there being no news of them since the AFDL took power.

Finally the Observatory notes with utmost concern that faced with these events the authorities have apparently not adopted any measures inspite of the fact that the bureau of the CNONGD in Kinshasa has regularly informed the office of the President of the Republic and the ministries of justice and of the interior of the grave violations of the freedoms of the human rights defenders. This leads the Observatory to believe that such practices may be encouraged by the authorities of the new government.

Action requested

Write to the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo expressing concern at the above-mentioned situation and urging them to:

i. guarantee the respect of the physical and psychological integrity of Sr. Bertin LUKANDA and order his immediate release in the absence of judicially valid charges;

ii. carry out a thorough and independent investigation into the facts in order to identify and punish those responsible for the hounding and the illegal or arbitrary detention of human rights defenders in the province of Maniema as well as the rest of the country and the acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment inflicted upon them;

iii revoke any provision which infringes the right to freedom of movement or of opinion and expression of human rights defenders in the country;

iv. guarantee in all circumstances the respect of human rights and fundamental liberties in accordance with the provisions of international and regional instruments for the protection of such rights and liberties.

Addresses:. - Monsieur le President Laurent-Desire Kabila. Presidence de la Republique Democratique du Congo, Kinshasa - Gombe.

- Monsieur le Ministre de la Justice, Ministere de la Justice, Republique Democratique du Congo, Kinshasa - Gombe

- Monsieur Mwenze Kongolo, Ministre de l'Interieur, Ministere de l'Interieur, Republique Democratique du Congo, Kinshasa Gombe

The Embassy of the Democratic Republic of Congo (ex Zaire) in your respective countries.

Geneva - Paris, August 28th 1997

Kindly inform the Observatory of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply. ...................................

The Observatory, an FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact The Observatory, call The Emergency Line : Fax :33 (0) 1 40 39 22 42 Tel.: FIDH 33 (0) 1 48 05 82 46 OMCT : + 41 22 733 31 40 E-mail: Ben Schonveld Projects Manager

OMCT-SOS-Torture Fax 4122 733 1051 Ph 4122 733 3140 OMCT is: l'Organisation Mondiale contre la Torture The World Organisation Against Torture OMCT@IPROLINK.CH

OMCT - The World Organisation Against Torture is the World's largest network of human rights organisations fighting against all forms of torture, cruel inhuman or degrading treatment, forced disappearances summary execution or other more subtle forms of violent repression.

OMCT has consultative status with the UN, The ILO and the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights.

Additional Note: In its daily update for August 28, 1997, IRIN (see above for contact information) also noted:

In a separate statement yesterday, the main DRC rights organisation-Association for the Defence of Human Rights (AZADHO)-criticised the "deteriorating" human rights situation in DRC, which it said was characterised by "growing terror". It noted in particular "systematic repression" by the local authorities against non-governmental organisations in Maniema province, which it described as a virtual enclave due to the scarcity of air traffic and practically no road infrastructure. AZADHO claimed the intimidation campaign was aimed at preventing NGOs and the local population from testifying to the UN human rights investigation team probing alleged refugee massacres.


+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: Central Africa

Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +security/peace+

Summary Contents:

This posting contains excerpts on the Democratic Republic of Congo from a Sept. 11 press conference by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, concerning the mission to investigate human rights abuses in eastern Congo, and two statements by UN agencies on the withdrawal of the UNCHR from operations in eastern Congo. UN Press Releases are available on the Web at


Press Release SG/SM/6321 11 September 1997


QUESTION: Regarding the so-called democratic Congo, why have you been so soft with [President Laurent] Kabila, giving in to all his demands? What is the rationale behind this policy? And also, what do you realistically expect from the mission?

SECRETARY-GENERAL: First of all, I think it is wrong to say that one has been soft with Kabila. To come up with an approach and a persistent effort to put a team down and to ensure that we get to the truth and find out what happened, and take whatever steps are necessary, and by doing that also send out a message that impunity cannot be allowed to go unpunished, and that we cannot accept a world in which men can be so inhuman to each other and not be sanctioned. If we had accepted the original rejection -- that [Roberto] Garreton could not go in -- we would not have a team in today.

We have a team in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is not smooth sailing. President Kabila indicated he was prepared to accept them. The team is there. We are going to test the seriousness of the Government, and we are determined to get to the facts. If it gets to a situation where it is impossible for us to do our work, then, of course, we have to draw the right conclusions.

Yes, we have had very mixed signals from different ministers in the Republic. Each one says something different. But in the end President Kabila himself finally wrote to me, cutting through the confusion, and said "We will let you go ahead with your work." The team is there and will be starting its work soon. If the difficulties persist, and they are not allowed to do their work, then the facts will be there for the whole world to judge.

QUESTION: How long are you willing to wait?

SECRETARY-GENERAL: I think this idea of time -- it's not just a question of time, you have to link this to progress, to achievement, to facts and actions on the ground. I'm one of those who has always been uncomfortable with the tendency to set arbitrary deadlines. I did, in fact, in my correspondence indicate a deadline, and, of course, you noticed that in his response to me he was upset that I had given him an ultimatum. On the other hand, I could not let the team sit in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a long time without being able to get their work done.

So, yes, I did indicate that if we did not get a signal from him personally that they could move on with their work, I would have no option but to instruct them to leave and let the Council and the world decide what should be done. And that was when I got his letter indicating we can proceed.

But I am not prepared to give you a timetable as to when I will withdraw them. It will depend very much on what happens on the ground.


QUESTION: I take it that there is a lot of wishful thinking after Kabila's military victory that a sort of friendly government in the region would help to bring stability to all of its neighbours. It has been a couple of months now. The Angola peace process is in trouble. Congo-Brazzaville is at war. Rwanda is increasingly destabilizing Burundi and the Congo. Could you give us your assessment of what you think the prospects for stability in that region are and then, more specifically, if you can give me an assessment of your view of the human rights record of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), both in eastern Congo and at home?

SECRETARY-GENERAL: Let me first say that we are dealing with new regimes which, to some extent, are fragile and not very well established. We must also remember, psychologically, that President Kabila himself and some of the people who are with him were involved in Congolese politics in the early 1960s. Some were with [Patrice] Lumumba when he was killed. For some of them, they believe that the international community deprived them of a chance to rule Congo and they are very mistrustful that if they are not careful it can be done a second time.

And so we need to understand this mistrust and have a certain patience with a regime that is trying to take over in a country that has more or less collapsed, with no infrastructure and very serious and difficult problems. I also hope, in time, they will come to understand that the international community understands their needs and the problem and would want to help the Congolese people, who have real needs, and work with us in a spirit of trust and understanding that the international community can help and would want to help. That is by way of background.

And I think that, in my own discussions with them, they do realize that they need the international community, and that, for them to get the cooperation of the international community, certain things have to happen. But I cannot help but agree with you that the record and the pattern in the region is disturbing. And, in fact, if the international community is going to make a difference, we need to come up with a strategy that will lead to regional stability. We cannot approach it on a country-by-country basis. And it was for that reason that there has been talk for a considerable period about organizing an international conference on the Great Lakes region. We need to work on the regional basis and also help the individual countries with their reconstruction, political reconciliation and, hopefully, set them on the road to democracy and prosperity, because there are resources and the region is quite rich.

My concern is, if we do not manage to bring that large region under control, many other countries in the region will be unsettled. And today, when we talk of the Great Lakes region -- originally we were talking of Rwanda, Burundi, to some extent eastern Congo -- we are looking at Rwanda, Burundi, problems in Congo-Brazzaville and tensions in the Central African Republic. And, of course, you did touch on Angola, which also shares a common border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And this is why we need to take a broader view of what the international community needs to do. But, for us to be able to assist the people, we need to convince the governments to put aside this mistrust for the international community and really work with us, because they cannot do it alone. They need help and they need help badly.

QUESTION: On the RPA, your concerns, your assessment of your human rights role both in eastern Congo and ...

SECRETARY-GENERAL: I think the reports from the human rights monitors and the human rights groups indicate that there have been major abuses on both sides, yes.


UN High Commissioner for Refugees

UNHCR Suspends Congo-Kinshasa Operations

September 10, 1997

Geneva - High Commissioner Sadako Ogata announced on Tuesday UNHCR is suspending its operations for Rwandan refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying that the most basic conditions for protecting them have now ceased to exist.

Speaking to reporters after briefing the UN Security Council in New York, Mrs. Ogata also said she is despatching a senior-level delegation to Rwanda to assess conditions of returns and the situation of imprisoned returnees. She said grave security constraints on the monitoring of returnees have reached a point that UNHCR can no longer ensure the most basic form of protection.

"We cannot protect refugees if the host governments do not abide by the principles and standards of laws, which means that refugees have to be protected, and that those who do not volunteer to go back have to be examined," she said.

Bill Richardson, Security Council president and U.S. ambassador, said the council supports in "the strongest terms" Mrs. Ogata's move. Mrs. Ogata made the announcement after agreeing with the UN Secretary-General to review UNHCR's operations in the former Zaire. It followed the expulsion of more than 700 Rwandan and Burundi refugees in a predawn military operation at UNHCR's transit centre in Kisangani in central DRC on 4 September.

"There are no more refugees in the centre," she said. "This kind of situation obliged us to suspend the operation." Suspension will be gradual in other areas. It will immediately affect search and rescue operations for Rwandans and screening. Assistance to Congolese, Angolan, Burundi and Ugandan refugees will continue in the DRC. Repatriation of Congolese from Tanzania also continues.

The High Commissioner said resumption of UNHCR's activities in the former Zaire will depend on the DRC government's willingness to provide UNHCR with concrete guarantees it will treat Rwandans according to humanitarian standards and allow due process in the examination of refugee claims. She said staff security must be ensured.

There are about 40,000 Rwandans and a handful of Burundi refugees whose locations are known to UNHCR in 10 countries in central Africa. Since the massive repatriations from ex-Zaire to Rwanda in November, UNHCR has helped 250,000 Rwandans to return to their country. This number includes more than 61,000 airlifted to Rwanda.

Aside from its help to returning Rwandans, UNHCR also is involved in the rehabilitation of water systems, schools, roads and bridges in areas that used to host refugees in the former Zaire.

12 September 1997

Press Release AFR/15 IHA/634


NEW YORK, 12 September (DHA) -- Following is a statement on the situation in the Great Lakes region issued today by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee chaired by the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator. The Committee comprises United Nations agency heads of the World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Health Organization (WHO), and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), as well as representatives of the International Organization for Migration, the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response, InterAction, and the International Council of Voluntary Agencies.

"The Inter-Agency Standing Committee is gravely concerned over the erosion of respect for humanitarian principles and human rights which increasingly affects humanitarian operations in the Great Lakes region of central Africa. In this connection, the Committee endorses the decision taken by the High Commissioner for Refugees to suspend her Office's protection and assistance activities for Rwandese refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Committee agrees that those activities should be resumed only after guarantees have been received from the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo that humanitarian principles will be respected and the security of staff ensured.

"The Committee calls upon all parties in the region to ensure access to affected populations, the security of humanitarian workers and respect for human rights and international humanitarian law. The UNHCR, other concerned humanitarian agencies and human rights observers must be permitted full access to refugees who have returned to their countries of origin to ensure that their rights and safety are respected. In addition, the Committee urges all parties to support the current investigation into allegations of human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo."

From: Message-Id: <199709152354.QAA00595@igc3> Date: Mon, 15 Sep 1997 19:53:29 -0500 Subject: Congo (Kinshasa): Recent Documents, 1

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

Previous Menu Home Page What's New Search Country Specific