December 11, 2008

IV. Abuses committed by the Mai Mai

The Mai Mai combatants in Kiwanja summarily executed at least six people, including a boy of 16. They also attempted to kill another three persons, one of whom was seriously injured. They recruited and used children in combat and abducted people for ransom.

Eyewitnesses told Human Rights Watch researchers that the Mai Mai, the FDLR, and Congolese army soldiers were often seen collaborating with each other.[53] One civilian abducted by the Mai Mai in Kiwanja on November 4, was taken to an FDLR camp, where his abductors were warmly greeted, and then to a Congolese army base where they were given dinner and congratulated for their success in combat.[54]

Summary executions, killings and abductions

During the brief period on November 4-5 when Mai Mai combatants controlled Kiwanja, they deliberately killed civilians, either because they suspected them of supporting the CNDP or because they wanted to rob them.

One child, age 12, told Human Rights Watch researchers what happened to her family. She said:

There was lots of fighting around our house in Kasasa quartier on Tuesday, and at about 2 pm, men came to our house and broke down the door. Two soldiers came in. They were wearing civilian trousers and military shirts. They asked my mother to give them money. But she said that she did not have any and then they killed her. They stabbed her with a knife and then they shot her with one bullet. To save his life my father left the house to try and find some money. He went to a neighbor's house … I didn't see what happened to him but I did hear a shot. [A neighbor] came to tell us that the soldiers had shot my father and everyone in that house as well.[55]

Journalists also reported Mai Mai killings, including that of a man who died when Mai Mai set his home on fire. Those responsible for the arson then beat two youths, aged 16 and 19, and executed the 16-year-old boy and seriously injured the other by shooting him in the throat.[56]

The Mai Mai abducted six civilians whom they accused of siding with the CNDP and also took two CNDP combatants prisoner. Among the civilians was a CNDP official, Theophile Mpabuka, and a foreign journalist, Thomas Scheen, who worked for the German publication Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The Mai Mai executed two of those in custody, tried to kill two others who managed to escape, and released Mpabuka in return for a promise of ransom. Scheen and his driver and interpreter were eventually transferred to Congolese army soldiers and then released to MONUC.[57]

After losing control of Kiwanja, the Mai Mai retreated to areas north of the town. On November 29, unidentified assailants in this region killed seven people from the same family, including three women and one 13-year-old boy, who were apparently looking for food. They raped a fourth woman from the same family. Given the region of the attack and the description of the assailants as dressed in civilian clothes, it seems likely that they were Mai Mai or FDLR combatants.[58]

Use of child soldiers

In late October, child protection agencies reported that the Mai Mai had recruited at least 36 children into military service in Rutshuru territory.[59] On November 4, witnesses reported seeing at least 30 children-and possibly many more-among the Mai Mai combatants who attacked Kiwanja. Foreign journalists traveling north to Kanyabayonga following the Mai Mai defeat at Kiwanja also saw numerous children among the Mai Mai, including some very young children who appeared to be under 12 years of age.[60]

[53]Thomas Scheen, "I don't wanna enter voluntarily my own casket" [article in German],Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung, November 13, 2008.

[54]Human Rights Watch telephone interview with abductee, Goma, December 4, 2008.

[55] Human Rights Watch interview with child, Kiwanja, November 30, 2008. Since the combatants entered their house soon after the Mai Mai attacked Kiwanja on November 4, and because they were wearing only partial military uniforms, as many Mai Mai fighters wore, it is highly likely that this incident was carried out by Mai Mai combatants.

[56]Beatrice Petit, «CONGO - Nord Kivu: Voyage au bout de l'enfer» unpublished article, December 5, 2008. On file at Human Rights Watch.

[57]Human Rights Watch interviews with two abductees, Goma, November 8, 2008 and December 4, 2008. Thomas Scheen, "I don't wanna enter voluntarily my own casket" [article in German], Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, November 13, 2008.

[58]Human Rights Watch interview with Kiwanja resident who participated in burial, Kiwanja, November 30, 2008; Human Rights Watch interview with health center employee, Kiwanja, November 29, 2008.

[59]Human rights Watch interviews with child protection officials, Goma, November 5 and December 8, 2008.

[60]Human Rights Watch interviews with foreign journalists, November 28, 2008.  Photos taken by the journalists clearly show child soldiers in the Mai Mai ranks.