Human Rights Developments
The National Islamic Front (NIF) dominated Sudan=s government, which had declared Sudan an Islamic republic. The civil war, underway since 1983 against the rebel Sudan People=s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) and others and continued to be the context of massive human rights violations, including indiscriminate attacks on civilians and refusal of relief access to the needy, arbitrary detentions, mistreatment, and torture.
While giving lip-service to tolerance, during 1996 the NIF, an Islamist political party, continued its policy of using state power to coerce Islamization and force its interpretation of Islam upon Muslims, in violation of freedom of religion. Its politicization of religion and ethnicity made settlement of the war increasingly difficult. Although Islam was the state religion, only 60 percent of the population was Muslim. The Muslim population lived largely in the north, and most southerners remained Christians or practiced traditional African religions. The SPLM/A, initially a southern-based movement, continued to seek a united secular Sudan. Poor relations between Christian churches and the government, as well as the civil war, were deeply related to the north-south questions and the government=s Islamization project. The government continued to characterize attacks on its poor human rights record as attacks on Islam.
In March, elections were held for president and legislative assembly but were boycotted by the opposition, as political parties remained banned and there were substantial restrictions on free speech, assembly and association. The governing NIF reinforced its political control through these elections, although as a political party it, too, was technically banned. The NIF=s attempts to speak for all Sudanese Muslims were rebuffed by leaders of traditional Sudanese Sunni Muslim sects, two of which formed the backbone of the two largest political parties in Sudan, the Democratic Unionist Party and the Umma PartyCboth banned since the 1989 army/NIF coup.
Slightly greater press freedom permitted to local newspapers prior to the elections ended shortly after March. After repeated suspensions, the government finally closed Al Rai Al Akhar, the last independent paper then still open in July. At two state publishing houses, the government dismissed women journalists who demanded equal pay and laid off an additional 150 women and fifty men. Arrests of journalists continued in 1996.
Other forms of expression also remained tightly circumscribed. After former vice-president and well-known southern politician Abel Alier publicly called for resolution of the war in late 1995, he and others close to him were detained briefly and harassed in other ways. Several signatories of a June 1996 petition to the government calling for a multiparty system were arrested, others harassed.
As usual, the universities were sites of struggle between pro- and antigovernment students, in which government forces played a partisan role. At the private, independent Ahliya University in Omdurman, the triumph of antigovernment students in student elections in mid-1996 led to more violent clashes between student groups. Although pro-NIF student supporters and NIF militias attacked and destroyed university buildings during these clashes, none were detained and instead the government used this as a pretext to close Ahliya University permanently.
For the most part, however, efforts to secure the release of detained antigovernment activists did not meet with success. The government continued to hold security detainees for up to and sometimes beyond six months without charges or recourse to the courts. Unacknowledged places of detention, Aghost houses,@ continued to serve as informal security detention facilities where mistreatment and sometimes torture occurred. Victims of the most severe torture continued to be largely from Sudan=s marginalized peoples, particularly those in or from the war-affected areas, such as the south, the central Nuba Mountains, and the Beja region in eastern Sudan.
According to the government, coup plotters abounded. Several alleged Aplotters@ were detained by security in January and released on bail in May, under close surveillance, possibly to be tried in a civilian court. Another thirty-one detainees (including ten civilians) were put on trial by a military tribunal in Khartoum in August for an alleged February coup attempt. The trial, in October still proceeding in the military intelligence area of army headquarters, was closed to the public. Human Rights Watch=s request to observe it and for the public and the press to have access was ignored. In late September, one defendant, a civilian journalist, took off his shirt to show what he said were torture scars; other defendants claimed to have been tortured. The defendants were charged with crimes that carry the death penalty. Another group captured in August in and around Port Sudan is expected to be tried before a military tribunal also.
Many of the almost two million displaced southerners and Nubas in the Khartoum area since the mid-1980s Aillegally@ built shanties and churches. These structures continued to be destroyed in disregard of international due process standards pursuant to an Aurban renewal@ plan. This plan would reverse population trends resulting from the ongoing civil war and the droughts of the 1980s, as Khartoum=s population doubled to four million and the ethnic balance of the capital shifted away from its Arab base. Those displaced who arrived in Khartoum after 1990 had no right of tenure anywhere in Khartoum, not even in the dreary Aofficial@ displaced persons= camps. By late 1995 about 4.25 million war-affected inside SudanCnorth and southCrequired some form of relief assistance. Another 556,000 were refugees in neighboring countries.
The war that had driven the displaced and refugees from their homes continued. The government=s war abuses included targeted air attacks on civilian populations. On August 23, two helicopter gunships flew low and deliberately fired rockets and machineguns on civilians on market day in Kotobi, Western Equatoria, where 6,000 displaced persons were sheltering. Five civilians were killed and forty-five injured, and two churches were destroyed. Indiscriminate government attacks on concentrations of civilians included three bombing raids on the town center and market place in Maridi in Western Equatoria during July, in which three civilians were killed and twenty-three were reported wounded.
Civilians had no respite from human rights abuses in the central Nuba Mountains either. For example, on March 23 and 24, 1996, two villages in the Moro district were looted and destroyed by a joint army and Popular Defense Forces (PDF) militia raid, leaving 1,000 families destitute.
Slavery was an ongoing abuse. Government troops and government PDF militias had captured and enslaved women and children in army-sponsored raids on southern and Nuba villages for the past ten years. They were allowed, as a form of war booty, to take these civilians captive for use in domestic slavery or to sell. For example, on March 16, in southern Kordofan, a PDF attack on Mabior Deil, a village established by the government for the displaced in 1995, killed an estimated thirty-one and kidnapped at least thirteen women and children into slavery. The PDF reportedly enslaved twelve in another attack on Majok Kuom in Bahr El Ghazal on April 25, and seventy-one were reportedly enslaved by the PDF in attacks in the Abyei area of Kordofan in April.
Cmdr. Kerubino Kuanyin Bol, heading a government militia, brought the greatest destruction to southern Sudan in late 1995 and early 1996. Kerubino, a former SPLA founder whom the SPLA held prisoner in secret camps for over five years, escaped and in 1993 returned to his native northern Bahr El Ghazal. Since then, in alliance with the Sudan government, his troops routinely attacked, looted and burned civilian villages, killing civilians, wiping out their cattle and grain, and sparking a need for emergency relief. The government frequently denied access to this region to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and to Operation Lifeline Sudan (Southern Sector), the U.N. umbrella agency charged with crossborder emergency relief to the internally displaced. It appeared that the government was trying to push civilians to migrate to government garrison towns, another example of the government=s scorched earth or Adraining the sea@ counterinsurgency strategy, as in the Nuba Mountains.
In 1996, the most significant political development in the civil war since the 1991 SPLA split occurred when the leader of the 1991 split, Cmdr. Riek Machar, took his Nuer-based Southern Sudan Independence Movement/Army (SSIM/A) into an alliance with the government. Along with Kerubino, a Dinka, Machar signed a APolitical Charter@ with the government in April. Most of the Sudan=s known oil reserves lay within SSIM/A territory.
The Political Charter was the culmination of a government strategy which did not break the war=s stalemate but imposed a high cost on the south. With this Charter, the Sudan government continued to actively prolong and deepen ethnic divisions between and among the two largest peoples in southern Sudan, the Dinka (mostly aligned with the SPLA) and the Nuer (mostly with the SSIA), with approximately 12 and 5 percent, respectively, of the entire population of Sudan. The government=s strategy extended to arming and financing several other smaller, often ethnically-based splinters of the SPLA.
Unlike prior years, however, when the SSIA/SPLA conflict could be characterized as internal SPLA faction fighting, the government of Sudan was in 1996 directly responsible for the conduct of the Machar and Kerubino forces fighting against the SPLA. This stepped-up government orchestrated fighting among southerners led to more civilians killed, displaced and left destitute in 1996 than at any time since the height of SPLA faction fighting in 1993. The Dinka-Nuer fighting even spread to the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya where six refugees were killed and over one hundred wounded in two days of clashes in mid-1996.
Compounding the ethnic divisions was the refusal of SPLA Commander-in-Chief John Garang to investigate and punish attacks on civilians by his troops, particularly attacks made across ethnic lines. In the largest recent attack, on July 30, 1995, Dinka SPLA forces attacked villages in the Nuer area of Ganyliel, killing more than 210 persons. Although eyewitnesses saw SPLA commanders and soldiers there, Dr. Garang said this action was not Aordered@ by the SPLA, and told Human Rights Watch that investigating allegations of abuses by SPLA troops was Anot a priority@ for the SPLA.
An SPLA offensive starting in October 1995 recaptured several southern villages from the government, and was followed in early 1996 by stepped-up SPLA forced recruitment, including of young boys, from Western Equatoria, and from refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. On August 17, an SPLA commander detained six Catholic missionaries who had been critical of SPLA forced recruitment and other abusive practices in the Western Equatoria area of Mapourdit, but released them on August 28 after international protests.
New rebel actors in the war appeared in the east. The northern-based Sudan Alliance Forces (SAF) and the eastern-based Beja Congress, members of the opposition umbrella National Democratic Alliance (NDA) headquartered in Eritrea, began attacks on government forces inside eastern Sudan. Landmines appeared in the area, some left reportedly by opposition forces.
The Right to Monitor
No independent domestic human rights monitors were able to operate above ground in government-controlled Sudan. Following the 1989 coup, the government banned the independent Sudan Bar Association and the Sudan Human Rights Organization (SHRO). The original SHRO functioned out of Cairo, London and other cities as an organization in exile. Government supporters inside Sudan established an official organization also called SHRO, unconditionally supporting the government.
Dr. Ushari Mahmud, a linguist and human rights antislavery campaigner, was jailed by the incumbent government for twenty-two months (1989-91) in an attempt to force him to renounce his 1987 slavery study and, as of November, remained banned from travel.
The Role of the International Community
Sudan continued to be isolated internationally, and its human rights record often criticized. Relations with most of the ten countries bordering Sudan were tense, and the governments of Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Uganda alleged Sudan was contributing to destabilization there by backing rebel groups opposed to those governments.
In January, the U.N. General Assembly renewed its condemnation of Sudan=s human rights record for the fourth consecutive year, and condemned its practices of institutionalized slavery. The U.N. Commission on Human Rights in April condemned human rights violations in Sudan in a resolution noting with Adeep concern reports of grave human rights violations in the Sudan,@ as described in reports submitted by the special rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Sudan; on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; on the question of religious intolerance; and by the chairmen of the Working Groups on Arbitrary Detention and on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. The Sudan government, responding to pressure, lifted its two year ban on visits by U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan Dr. Gaspar Biro. His visit to Khartoum in August was marred by a government newspaper=s incorrect quotation in which he is held to have denied slavery existed in Sudan. The special rapporteur replied that the Sudanese media had Agrossly misrepresented@ his views, and that he continued to receive reports of slavery.
The U.N. Commission on Human Rights in April resolved to establish three U.N. human rights monitors for Sudan, to be based in Uganda, Kenya and Eritrea; the government refused to accept U.N. monitors on its soil. As of November, however, the U.N. failed to establish the missions of the monitors. Also in mid-1996, the government invited the U.N. special rapporteurs on free expression and religious tolerance to visit.
The Africa-Caribbean-Pacific European Union Joint Assembly of the European Union condemned the human rights record of the government of Sudan for the fourth consecutive year in a resolution on March 22, and Aalso condemned the regime for its practices of institutionalized slavery.@ It called on the international community to outlaw the sale of armaments to the government. It further criticized the government and all factions of the SPLA for killings, massacres, torture, and other abuses of human rights. A similar resolution followed in late September.
The U.S. government condemned the human rights records of both the Sudan government and the southern rebel factions in the State Department=s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1995. Although a 1993 U.S. State Department decision placing Sudan on the list of countries supporting Ainternational terrorism@ made Sudan ineligible for all U.S. assistance except humanitarian aid, the U.S. Congress in 1996 exempted SPLA-controlled areas of Sudan from the ban on U.S. development aid.
The U.S. took the lead at the U.N. Security Council early in 1996 on a resolution to impose sanctions on Sudan for its failure to extradite to Ethiopia three men accused of participation in the assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak when he arrived in Addis Abba, Ethiopia, for the Organization of African Unity (OAU) summit meeting in September 1995.
In early 1996, the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum withdrew its American personnel, citing security reasons. These diplomats, relocated to Nairobi, returned to Sudan for visits but their relocation hindered any active human rights role that the embassy might have played inside Sudan. The U.S. expelled from the Sudanese diplomatic mission at the U.S. a Sudanese diplomat with the portfolio of Ahuman rights,@ accusing him of involvement in a conspiracy to bomb targets in the U.S.
Fatih Erwa, whose naming as ambassador of Sudan to Washington was rejected by the U.S. in 1995, was named Sudan=s Ambassador to the U.N. in 1996. The 1995 rejection by the U.S. was presumed to have been motivated by Erwa=s involvement in Juba in 1992 in hundreds of summary executions and Adisappearances,@ including those of four employees of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Mild Security Council sanctions relating to the Addis Abba incident, including a downgrading of diplomatic relations and refusal of visas to government personnel by U.N. member states, were imposed on Sudan in May 1996. These were extended in August 1996 to a ban on Sudan Airways if the government continued to refuse to extradite the suspects, whom it claimed were not in Sudanese territory. But human rights was not on the Security Council agenda.
The United Nations Children=s Fund (UNICEF), the lead agency in Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS)(Southern Sector), won praise in an external review of OLS, specifically for its work in the south on advancing the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and observance of humanitarian law. In the south, OLS (Southern Sector) engaged actively in human rights dissemination. It signed joint commitments on humanitarian principles, CRC, and international humanitarian law, called the Aground rules,@ with each of the SPLM/A, SSIM/A, and the SPLM/A-United, in early 1996. The OLS conducted field investigations of attacks affecting civilians, and asked the attackers to account for violations of the conventions. UNICEF family reunification of unaccompanied boys in SPLA custody in the south was started in mid-1996, a significant first for the SPLA.
A rare press release by the U.N. secretary-general in February sharply criticized the government for dropping several bombs near a marked International Committee of the Red Cross plane and U.N. personnel at two approved relief locations in southern Sudan.
The chronic and grave problem of government denial of relief access for reasons unrelated to need continued. The OLS faced stiff government resistance to access to fifteen southern relief locations with assessed need (of 140 locations requested). In addition, the government had since September 1995 refused to let the OLS operate its largest and most efficient plane, a C-130, sharply reducing OLS capacity to assist the needy even in areas where access was permitted. Because of a lack of infrastructure, fighting and land mines, most access to southern Sudan continued to be by air.
The C-130 issue was raised repeatedly with the government at high levels, without success, and was made public in July with a statement by the U.N. secretary-general followed by a World Food Programme press conference denouncing the impeded access which threatened 700,000 southerners with hunger. Almost the next day, the government reversed its position and permitted OLS use of the C-130.
High-level U.N. pressure by Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Yasushi Akashi convinced the government to permit OLS access to Pochalla, retaken by the SPLA in March 1996, where July floods seriously affected 15,000 to 25,000 persons. This permission only held for one month, however, not long enough to meet Pochalla=s needs.
The most persistent gap in U.N. attention to human rights problems in Sudan remained the Nuba Mountains, where the Khartoum government for years blocked all human rights and emergency relief access except for agencies aligned with the government. In this blackout, it attacked civilian villages and forcibly displaced civilians to government-run Apeace villages@ where they were subjected to human rights abuses and pauperization. Despite repeated pleas, the U.N. has dodged this access issue.
This OLS failure came in for criticism in the external review of OLS, which stated that the U.N. approach of quiet diplomacy in the north Ahas achieved little beyond providing an impetus for the [government of Sudan] to expand its mechanisms of control and regulation. . . . the scope and coverage of OLS is determined on the basis of [government] approval, rather than actual need.@ This criticism was directed not only against the OLS inactivity in the Nuba Mountains but also with regard to internally displaced persons in the north, particularly in the Greater Khartoum area.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reportedly did little to prevent the SPLA from recruiting some one hundred Sudanese boys from refugee camps in Kenya (June) and Ethiopia (March). The UNHCR also faced the challenge of resettling 260 former unaccompanied boys whom the SPLA sent to Cuba for schooling in the late 1980s.
Slavery complaints have been pending against Sudan for several years at the International Labour Organisation, the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, and the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child. A government-promised slavery investigation due in August had not been produced as of November.
Human Rights Developments
The human rights situation in Zaire continued to deteriorate in 1996 as anxiety over the country=s future increased. Continued state-sponsored abuseCincluding harassment of opposition politicians and human rights activists, widespread arbitrary arrest, torture, rape, killings and looting by military and police, and government support for ethnic militiasCraised doubts about the commitment of national political leaders to a promised 1997 transition to democracy. By organizing Acontrolled chaos,@ as some observers have labeled policies encouraging opposition groups to splinter and fostering regional and ethnic divisionsCincluding the inter-ethnic battles and massacres that took place in North and South Kivu in 1996CPresident Mobutu Sese Seko sought to guarantee that he and his allies would remain in office indefinitely, even as Zaire inched toward national disintegration and the population found the struggle for daily survival increasingly difficult.
President Mobutu, now in his thirty-first year in office, regained a degree of international support in 1996 by exploiting the ongoing presence of Rwandan refugees in Eastern Zaire and promising to support upcoming multiparty elections. Within Zaire, President Mobutu remained the dominant political power, even as health problems limited his personal involvement in the day-to-day operations of government. Despite differences on some issues, Prime Minister Kengo wa Dondo generally supported and assisted President Mobutu.
Zaire=s national legislative body, the High Council of the Republic-Transitional Parliament (HCR-PT), meanwhile suffered from deep divisions that limited its ability to check the president=s power. After being forced out of his position as president of the HCR-PT in June 1995, Archbishop Laurent Mossengwo officially resigned in January. The legislative body was unable to agree on a successor, thus two vice-presidents, one a Mobutu loyalist and the other a critic of the president, shared leadership.
The political parties opposed to President Mobutu experienced divisions that raised doubts about their ability to present a unified opposition front in upcoming elections. Several opposition parties entered a newly reformulated cabinet in February, which prompted Etienne Tshisekedi, the leader of the major opposition alliance, the Sacred Union of Radical Opposition, to expel them from the group. In reaction to a second set of purges he initiated in April and May, Tshisekedi was himself ousted from both the Sacred Union and his political party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) and replaced by his second in command, Frederic Kibassa-Maliba. The groups officially withdrew their claim that Tshisekedi was the rightful prime minister of Zaire, a position they had supported since his removal from office in 1993.
Meanwhile, despite promises from both President Mobutu and Prime Minister Kengo to hold presidential, parliamentary, and municipal elections in the coming year, the government undertook only limited preparations for a transition to democracy. A forty-four-member National Election Commission (CNE) was established in January to prepare for elections. In April the CNE announced that elections would be held in May 1997, but the president of the commission, Bayona ba Meya, immediately expressed doubts about whether this timetable was realistic.
In September, less than a week after the first 116 of an expected 9,400 election delegates were installed, Georges Nzongola, one of two vice-presidents of the CNE and a prominent democracy activist, resigned from the commission in protest over the government=s lack of serious commitment to holding elections. Nzongola complained, among other things, that less than 5 percent of the CNE=s budget had been released by the government. Further hampering election preparations, the referendum on a new national constitution originally scheduled for December 1996 was postponed to February 1997, while the HCR-PT was unable to pass a law to govern the elections, despite going into extraordinary session in July for that purpose.
The conduct of President Mobutu and his supporters raised concerns about their commitment to free and fair elections. President Mobutu declared his candidacy even before the CNE announced a date for presidential elections, and army and police harassment of government critics during the course of the year seemed intended to prevent challengers from mounting an effective opposition. In March, soldiers broke up an opposition meeting and arrested several leaders, including Tshisekedi, who was briefly detained. Reverend Steve Hamaweja, president of the Christian Liberal Party, his eight year-old son, and another child of seven years, were detained and tortured in March, according to a letter Hamaweja smuggled out of detention. On September 7, Akerele Iyombi, president of the Congress Lokole Party, was arrested: she was briefly detained at a military camp in Kinshasa. Both Hamaweja and Iyombi had previously expressed an intention to run for president.
Anxiety over Zaire=s political future was heightened in late 1996 by uncertainty about President Mobutu=s health. Mobutu=s September 7 announcement on Zairian national television that he was in Switzerland recuperating from prostate surgery fueled fears that the president=s ill health could be used as an excuse to postpone the promised 1997 elections. Following speculation in Zairian newspapers about a potential army coup, the military high command in September publicly declared its loyalty to the institutions working for democratic transition, but this did little to dispel public apprehensions.
Zaire=s persistent political crisis intensified the country=s grave economic troubles. The government made no effort to address endemic high unemployment, massive inflation, and a deteriorating infrastructure. With little supervision and almost no financial support from the central government, administrative, judicial, and military officials at the local and regional levels participated widely in graft and corruption, exacerbating an already serious crime problem and increasing the level of insecurity among average Zairians.
The most serious and extensive human rights violations in 1996 occurred in Eastern Zaire, where the continuing presence of nearly 1.1 million Rwandan refugees sparked inter-ethnic conflicts and provoked tensions between Zaire and its neighbors. Zairian authorities expressed concern that the presence of the refugees, who were concentrated in camps around Goma, Bukavu, and Uvira, would complicate the upcoming elections. They repeatedly proposed plans to encourage repatriation, but the refugees, many of whom were involved in the 1994 genocide and feared retribution if they return, resisted, and none of the repatriation plans were fully implemented. As a result, the number of refugees who returned to Rwanda from Zaire in 1996 was minuscule.
The former Rwandan army and the Interahamwe militia groups responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda continued to operate freely within the camps, using intimidation and violence to discourage refugees from returning to Rwanda. Insecurity in the camps forced international nongovernmental organizations and United Nations agencies to suspend operations various times during the year. In July, several expatriate workers were detained, interrogated, and beaten by the Zairian Camp Security Contingent (ZCSC), Zairian troops deployed by the UNHCR to keep order. In September, refugees boycotted a UNHCR census intended to determine the size of the refugee population.
The presence of the camps contributed to tensions in the Great Lakes region and a serious deterioration of relations between the governments of Rwanda and Zaire. Rwandan authorities claimed that guerrilla attacks on government officials and survivors of the 1994 genocide were being organized out of the camps in Zaire (See Rwanda chapter). Zairian government officials had, in fact, provided shelter to the former Rwandan army and Rwandan Hutu militias and helped them to rearm. At the same time, Zaire had persistently refused to cooperate with the International Tribunal on Rwanda in seeking out, detaining or cooperating with the extraditing of persons indicted for genocide. In September, fighting between Rwandan and Zairian military around Bukavu left an undetermined number dead and drove hundreds from their homes.
Problems in the camps also helped to reignite ethnic conflicts that first erupted in the region in 1993. Worries that the Zairian government would forcibly close the camps in advance of the 1997 elections fueled calls among some exile leaders for the creation of an ethnic Hutu homeland in Eastern Zaire. Hutu refugees from Rwanda organized local Zairian Hutu populations in Masisi and Rutshuru zones into civilian militia groups modeled after the Rwandan Hutu militia groups known as the Interahamwe.
After several violent incidents in Masisi in late 1995 involving Hunde and Nyanga militia, known as Bangerima or Mai-mai, the Hutu militia launched a series of attacks, apparently seeking to drive other ethnic groups out of Masisi and Rutshuru. The Bangerima and Mai-mai counterattacked, and the conflict steadily expanded in the first months of 1996, killing hundreds and displacing more than 200,000. Zairian Tutsi, who were present throughout the region, were a primary target of both sides in the conflict. Through pillage, rape, and murder, the militia sought to drive Tutsi not simply out of their homes but out of the region. Between February and July, more than 18,000 Zairian Tutsi fled into Rwanda and Uganda.
Government officials were heavily implicated in the conflict. Regional and national officials, including the governor of North Kivu, helped to incite the violence with incendiary statements, while local officials both participated in attacks and profited from pillage. Soldiers and police supported both Hutu militia and the Bangerima/Mai-mai, depending on local circumstances and possibilities for profiting from the situation.
Political leaders in South Kivu also exploited anti-Rwandan and anti-Tutsi sentiments by inciting hostility and violence against the Banyamulenge, an ethnic group whose ancestors migrated from Rwanda and Burundi to Uvira, Mwenga, and Fizi zones in the early 1800s, substantially before colonial occupation. Formerly well integrated into Zaire, the Banyamulenge in recent years were increasingly lumped together with other Tutsi. In 1993, the National Conference, the gathering of representatives of political parties, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), churches and other groups that launched Zaire=s transition to democracy, denied representation to the Banyamulenge, claiming that they, along with the Tutsi of North Kivu, were not Zairian but Rwandan, and they subsequently faced growing harassment and discrimination.
In late July 1996, two organizations serving the Banyamulenge were banned and several prominent individuals were arrested, including three Protestant pastors and two local chiefs. Subsequent attacks against the Banyamulenge community, estimated to number 400,000, by local ethnic militia drove thousands to flee, many crossing into Burundi and Rwanda. Violence intensified in September and, at the time of this writing, appeared to be spreading. In retaliation, armed Zairian Tutsis launched attacks against the Zairian security forces and the Rwandan refugee camps in October, forcing international aid agencies to pull out, leaving hundreds of thousands of refugees on their own. Zaire accused Burundi and Rwanda of supporting the incursions and of invading Zaire.
Right to Monitor
Despite harassment from the police, military, and government officials, human rights organizations in Zaire remained impressively active and outspoken. The Zairian Association for the Defense of Human Rights (AZADHO) regularly denounced corruption by government officials and abuse by the police and judiciary, releasing a major report in December 1995 on violence against women in Zaire and another in June condemning corruption in the judicial system. Other active groups included the Committee for Democracy and Human Rights (CDDH), the Voice of the Voiceless for Human Rights (VSV), the Heirs of Justice, and Grace.
Serious harassment of human rights activists occurred in North and South Kivu. In July, Didi Mwati Bulambo and three other workers for the Collective of Action for the Development of Human Rights (CADDHOM) in South Kivu were arrested following the publication of an article in CADDHOM=s newsletter, Mwangaza, alleging corruption in the prosecutor=s office of Kamitunga. The four were beaten and held in terrible conditions for two months before being provisionally released on September 16.
In August, the commissioner for Uvira zone in South Kivu banned MILIMA, a development and human rights NGO active among the Banyamulenge, and issued an arrest warrant for Muller Ruhimbika, president of the group. Ruhimbika earned government wrath for drawing international attention to the persecution of the Banyamulenge, providing information to the Carter Center and the U.N. Human Rights Commission=s special rapporteur for Zaire.
Harassment of human rights activists and organizations was common in other parts of the country as well. For example, in March and April Ikutu Amba, chair of AZADHO in Idiofa zone in Bandundu, was interrogated several times and beaten by police, eventually forcing him to flee into hiding in Kinshasa. The interrogations followed Ikutu=s denunciation of a local chief whom AZADHO accuses of ordering several thousand arbitrary arrests and illegal fines. During the final interrogation, the police confiscated keys to AZADHO=s Idiofa office.
The Role of the International Community
The international community focused almost exclusively on two issues in Zaire during 1996: the Rwandan refugees in eastern Zaire, and the transition process. The camps continued to present a serious dilemma for the international community, since significant repatriation did not take place during 1996 and the political forces that had controlled the camps since their establishment in 1994 remained firmly entrenched. However, the massive international assistance to the Rwandan refugees in Zaire did not benefit the local Zairian population, who suffered from the impact of the refugees in terms of increased arms flows into the region, growing insecurity, and environmental devastation. In addition, the Zairian authorities played a key role in re-arming the former Rwandan army, providing shelter and protection to them and other Hutu militias in eastern Zaire, and permitting these forces to carry out military training and raids into Rwanda. Although this close association between the Zairian security forces and the Hutu refugees in Zaire was well known, the international community did not respond adequately to end this collaboration.
Overall, efforts to gain President Mobutu=s cooperation with international efforts regarding the refugee camps and the Great Lakes crisis took precedence over the human rights situation in Zaire. Mobutu benefited considerably from this situation, which he used to effectively end his international isolation. The clearest sign of his new stature internationally came in April, when France reinstated its assistance program to the Zairian government. All but humanitarian assistance had been cut off in October 1991.
The main U.N. involvement in Zaire revolved around its role in overseeing the Rwandan refugee camps in eastern Zaire. In February 1995, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees funded Zairian troops that were deployed to keep order in the refugee camps, known as the Zairian Camp Security Contingent (ZCSC). Despite the well-established reputation of the Zairian military for abusing its own citizens, for the first several months the conduct of the force was regarded as acceptable. In 1996, however, the conduct of the ZCSC troops deteriorated, and they were responsible for abuses against refugees as well as against expatriate aid workers in the Goma area. UNHCR complained to Zairian authorities and some troop rotation reportedly followed, although there is no indication that any troops were investigated or prosecuted for their actions.
U.N. Special Rapporteur Roberto Garreton was a forceful advocate for human rights in Zaire. He published a strong report in January, and another one in October. After long delays and efforts to undermine the project, the government of Zaire agreed in September to permit the establishment of a small office by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Kinshasa, tasked to provide information to the special rapporteur and to High Commissioner as well as to provide advice and support to local NGOs.
The secretary-general sent two assessment missions regarding the feasibility of elections and the U.N. role. Although the U.N. began providing technical assistance, it conditioned its participation upon measures including passage of the new constitution, disbursement of funds to the electoral commission by the government, and a clear demonstration from the government that it is serious about holding elections. At that point, the U.N. would be prepared to make a larger commitment.
Tensions between Zaire and the U.N. increased in September, when Zaire accused the UNHCR of assisting armed Rwandans to cross the border into Zaire to fight with Banyamulenge Tutsi against Zairian troops. Secretary General Boutros-Ghali sent a special emissary to Kinshasa to defuse those tensions.
Like other donors, European Union policy toward Zaire concentrated on the refugee camps and the elections, but the E.U. also contributed toward rehabilitation programs for Zaire in areas such as sanitation, infrastructure, and reforestation. Since the suspension of E.U. aid to the Zairian government in January 1992, the European Commission has allocated US$309.81 million for Zaire. In 1995, the E.U. allocated US$176.46 million for Zaire; in 1996, the E.U. provided an additional US$6 million for rehabilitation of infrastructure and US$2.5 million for the displaced from Kasai and Shaba.
The E.U. was also prepared to contribute to the estimated US$250 million needed to conduct the Zairian elections, but did not place public conditions relating to human rights on E.U. assistance. In March, the troika of the E.U.Cthe then current presidency (Italy), the preceding presidency (Spain), and the next presidency (Ireland)Cvisited Zaire to discuss the transition to democracy and concerns about delays in its implementation. The delegation met with a range of Zairian officials, including President Mobutu.
The European Council of Foreign Ministers, meeting in Florence in June, mentioned the situation in Zaire in its final communique, though it only focused on the E.U. support for the transition process and the E.U.=s interest in assisting Zaire to prepare for the elections. At a meeting on October 1 and 2, the E.U. Council of Foreign Ministers agreed on Athe urgency of continuing to prepare elections in Zaire irrespective of the political uncertainties there@ and expressed its hope Athat the UN Secretary-General would send his personal representative to Kinshasa as soon as possible.@
The crisis in the Great Lakes region drew the U.S. into closer involvement with Zairian leaders, especially President Mobutu. In an effort to gain his assistance on issues ranging from the Rwandan refugees in eastern Zaire to the regional arms flows to the crisis in Burundi, the Clinton administration muted its criticism of the government=s human rights record, while promoting the transition to democracy.
In March, Prime Minister Kengo visited Washington and met with U.S. officials. State Department spokesperson Nicholas Burns said the U.S. noted the slow and Adisappointing progress@ towards a transition to democracy, and stressed that Zaire had to create an environment where Ademocratic values and practices can flourish.@
In May, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs George Moose and other U.S. officials met with President Mobutu and Prime Minister Kengo to discuss the situation in Burundi. This was the highest level meeting between a U.S. official and President Mobutu during the Clinton administration. According to the State Department, the delegation also urged Zairian leaders to halt the arms flows through Zaire, to stop allowing their territory to be used as a base for insurgent forces in the region, to detain Rwandan war crimes suspects, and to separate intimidators from the refugee camps.
While a State Department statement was issued on May 21 condemning the ethnic violence in North Kivu, indicating that AZairian military have in some cases either failed to intervene or actively assisted in the violence,@ the U.S. was reluctant to be too critical. In a July 1 response to a letter of concern about the violence by Senators Nancy Kassebaum and Russell Feingold, the chair and ranking member of the Senate Africa Subcommittee, the State Department went so far as to praise the actions of the Zairian government.