IV. OVERVIEW OF CIVILIAN KILLINGS FROM OCTOBER 1996 TO AUGUST 1997
The seven-month war between the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) and the Zairian Armed Forces (FAZ) was accompanied by gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. Killings of both Congolese civilians and refugees continued at the time of this writing. This overview summarizes the general trends of killings in Congo from the outbreak of the war in October 1996 through August 1997.
Most of the killings and other abuses from October 1996 between August 1997 were committed by individuals belonging to three distinct groups: former President Mobutu's FAZ and mercenaries; the former Rwandan Armed Forces (ex-FAR) and militia from the camps; and the ADFL, consisting of both Kabila's troops and military from several neighboring states, including Rwandan, Uganda, Angola, and Burundi. Other armed militia have also reportedly attacked civilians, particularly in recent months in eastern Congo.
The nature and scale of the killings and other violations committed by each of these groups differed significantly.
Human Rights Abuses by the FAZ
Throughout the war that led to the ousting of Mobutu, the Congolese population, refugees, and foreign nationals in Congo were witness to numerous violations of international humanitarian law and other abuses committed by the notoriously ill-trained and poorly supported FAZ. Mobutu's forces perpetrated abuses to sustain their fighting with and retreat from the ADFL, to enrich themselves, and to settle old scores with opponents of the Mobutu regime. These acts included widespread theft, rape, various acts of revenge, destruction of infrastructure, destruction of private and public property, and killings of civilians.
In September 1996 the FAZ, indigenous militia from South-Kivu, and armed elements from the refugee camps carried out attacks against Banyamulenge and other ethnic Tutsi in South-Kivu, resulting in numerous civilian deaths and incidents of rape.(1) This followed a period of several months of intensifying intimidation of Tutsi by military and civilian authorities throughout the country, as authorities claimed that Rwanda and Burundi were arming the Banyamulenge.
Throughout the war, the FAZ exercised a blatant disregard for international humanitarian law. Before fleeing the city of Kindu in February of 1997, the FAZ looted the Kindu General Hospital, depriving patients of medical care and stealing basic medical supplies and equipment including medicine and mattresses in use by patients.(2) In mid-February 1997, the FAZ, in collaboration with Serb and other mercenaries, bombarded several cities in eastern Zaire, including Bukavu, Shabunda, and Walikale, resulting in dozens of civilian deaths and injuries.(3) In early May of 1997, indiscriminate bombardment by the FAZ of the city of Kenge, 180 kilometers east of Kinshasa, resulted in the deaths of approximately 200 civilians, according to the Congolese Red Cross.
With insufficient logistical support from Kinshasa for their military campaign against the ADFL, the FAZ resorted to widespread theft and appropriation. Individual soldiers also looted for their own personal gain and then abandoned their units with no intention of returning to military service. In November 1996 United Nations officials in North-Kivu reported several hundred vehicles lost to looters, predominantly members of the FAZ who had fled the cities of Uvira, Bukavu and Goma.(4) The FAZ developed a pattern of looting just prior to their retreat from cities throughout the country, earning them the title of pillards-fouillards (fleeing looters).
Some abuses committed by the FAZ from September 1996 to May 1997 were acts of revenge against long-standing opponents of the Mobutu regime. While elements of the FAZ frequently participated in indiscriminate rape, beatings, and other cruel, degrading, and inhumane treatment during their retreat, church leaders, members of the political opposition, and leaders of civil society were often singled out for abuse. Churches that lay in the path, or within striking range, of the retreating FAZ were frequently looted by the FAZ; several were intentionally burned.(5) Refugees consistently accused the FAZ of acts of raping and killing refugees, as well as forcing them to assist the FAZ as laborers.(6)
Looting of public and private property, and the destruction of local infrastructure continue to affect the Congolese population today. Many state institutions under the Mobutu regime were in a state of advanced decay, leaving churches and nongovernmental organizations often as sole providers in key sectors such as health and education. This destruction of property and services belonging to churches and nongovernmental organizations deprived the Congolese population to many basic rights including access to health care and education.
Human Rights Abuses by the ex-FAR and Interahamwe Militia
Abuses committed by the ex-FAR and Interahamwe militia after their flight from the camps of the border area were largely related to strengthening their forces for combat with the ADFL, their retreat, or simply their survival. Throughout their flight across Congo, ex-FAR and Interahamwe intimidated civilian refugees to discourage them from returning to Rwanda, as they had done since the establishment of the refugee camps in 1994. Ex-FAR and militia participated in sporadic killings of Congolese civilians and some refugees.
The ex-FAR, Interahamwe, and civilian refugees participated in widespread theft to sustain themselves. In addition to theft by these former military or armed militia, the presence of tens of thousands of fleeing civilian refugees had a profound impact on Congolese civilian communities. Schools, public buildings, and homes were used for shelter, health centers were emptied of their medical supplies, and crops were looted and destroyed as refugees passed through Congolese cities and villages. The massive loss of property and destruction of infrastructure contributed to the decline of economic activity as well as numerous deficiencies in public services--problems that persist today.
According to corroborated testimony, ex-FAR and armed militia were responsible for at least one large-scale killing of Congolese civilians during their trek across Congo.(7) On or about November 6, 1996, ex-FAR and Interahamwe attacked a convoy of trucks near Burungu, North-Kivu, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilians, according to survivors. Congolese from villages in Equateur, Haut-Congo, and North-Kivu told Human Rights Watch/FIDH of sporadic killings of their neighbors by armed Rwandans when food or supplies were withheld or were insufficient.
Other reports describe ex-FAR or armed militia intimidating and at times shooting at civilian refugee populations in attempts to direct their movements throughout their flight from the ADFL. One U.N. official described testimony from civilian refugees with machete wounds near Mbandaka who claimed that the ex-FAR had attacked them, complaining that the civilian refugees had become a burden.(8) UNHCR officials in refugee camps as far west as Congo-Brazzaville stated that intimidation of refugees wishing to return to Rwanda continued in some areas at least until July 1997.(9)
The presence of ex-FAR and Interahamwe militia in several provinces of Congo remained a security threat as of this writing in September 1997. In the east, ex-FAR and militia have carried out attacks on civilian populations, primarily Tutsi, and continue to use North-Kivu as a rear base for incursions into Rwanda. In the central and western provinces of Congo, some internally displaced villagers still refuse to return to their homes, fearful of theft and violence by ex-FAR, or concerned that attempts by the ADFL to track down and eliminate both refugees and the armed exiles will create security problems for themselves.
Human Rights Abuses Committed by the ADFL
The human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law committed by the ADFL and its allies are remarkably different in their scale, nature and motivation from abuses perpetrated in Congo by the FAZ and ex-FAR. From the beginning of the war up to the present, ADFL troops or their allies, in particular those of Rwandan or of ethnic Tutsi origin, have carried out large-scale killings of civilians, predominantly refugees as well as some Congolese. In addition, the intentional blocking of humanitarian assistance to civilian refugees by ADFL troops is likely to have resulted in thousands of additional deaths.
These killings and the intentional blocking of aid were apparently both in revenge for the 1994 genocide in which Tutsi and moderate Hutu were systematically massacred by ex-FAR and Interahamwe as well as an attempt to weaken their military organization in Congo and their support base of civilian refugees. From mid-1994 up to their dispersal, armed elements in the camps in eastern Congo benefited from aid destined for the civilian refugee population and used the camps as a rear base for incursions into Rwanda.
The presence of Rwandan troops on Congolese territory was confirmed by Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame during an early July interview with the Washington Post(10) and again on September 9, 1997 when Kabila publicly thanked Rwanda for its help during the war on an official visit to Kigali.(11) Civilian refugees were often caught in areas of combat between these Rwandan forces and others backing the ADFL as they fought their FAZ and ex-FAR opponents. In addition to deaths due to crossfire, however, refugees describe numerous examples of indiscriminate attacks on refugee camps, including the use of mortars and heavy machine guns in the attacks on the Kibumba refugee camp in North-Kivu.(12),(13) These attacks on camps in eastern Congo marked the beginning of a series of attacks on refugees and temporary camps set up as refugees fled westward into the interior of Congo.
Other killings were more selective: numerous refugees reported being overtaken throughout their trek by military that they recognized as RPA.(14) They described systematic triage of refugees carried out by these troops that resulted in young men, former military or militia, former members of government, and intellectuals being selected for execution. Women and children were often encouraged to return to Rwanda but were occasionally allowed to flee further into the forest. Refugees returning from eastern Congo to Rwanda during the first months of the war were largely women, children, and elderly, who confirmed that male refugees among them had been taken away by the ADFL. As the refugees moved westward and into more remote areas, killings became more indiscriminate and women and children were more often included in massacres.
Testimonies taken in several provinces of Congo as well as in neighboring states concur that the perpetrators of most killings were from an ethnic Tutsi sub-group of ADFL troops, often described by Congolese as "Rwandan", "Ugandan", "Burundian", or "Banyamulenge." Numerous refugees described how, when overtaken by the ADFL or their allies during their flight, they had recognized and had conversations with members of the RPA who were from their home communes in Rwanda. Congolese villagers described numerous incidents in which refugees and members of the RPA recognized and spoke with one another in areas where massacres took place. Many commanding officers in areas where massacres took place, as well as troops under their command, were members of the RPA. Some stated that they had grown up in Rwanda, having left for studies or other reasons.(15)
Languages spoken by perpetrators similarly indicates their origin as primarily Rwandan, eastern Congolese, or Ugandan.(16) Congolese, foreigners in Congo, and refugees consistently described the perpetrators of massacres in several regions or those blocking humanitarian access to refugees as Kinyarwanda speakers. Many witnesses noted the divisions among the ADFL, claiming that the troops of the ADFL who killed were often from Rwanda, some speaking only Kinyarwanda.(17)
Others witnesses stated that the perpetrators spoke Kiswahili as well as Kinyarwanda, sometimes mixed with French or English. This indicates that some of the troops involved in killings were likely to have come from southern Uganda, as well as eastern Congo and Burundi. Many commanding officers and troops in areas where massacres took place were fluent English, Kinyarwanda, and Kiswahili speakers, characteristic of members of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) who invaded Rwanda from southern Uganda in 1990.
Certain military among the ADFL and especially the RPA appeared to be particularly motivated to kill refugees. Kinyarwanda and Kiswahili-speaking ADFL or Rwandan troops repeatedly demonstrated throughout the war a specific intent to hunt down and kill civilian refugees as well as armed exiles from Rwanda. Numerous residents of Mbandaka report that, upon the arrival of the ADFL on May 13, 1997, Kinyarwanda-speaking troops immediately asked "where are the refugees?" and proceeded to seek them out and begin killing.(18) Human Rights Watch/FIDH received similar reports from towns between Kisangani and Mbandaka, where the first order of business for the ADFL upon arrival in a village was to eliminate refugees.(19)
Congolese development workers described an incident during the arrival of the ADFL in Mbandaka during which ADFL troops demanded that a resident shout in Lingala, the local language, to tell people in a crowd to quickly get down on the ground. Refugees in the crowd, who did not understand Lingala, remained standing and were subsequently singled out and fired upon by ADFL troops.(20)
At a barrier south of Kisangani in April of 1997, soldiers blocked a high-level diplomatic delegation from proceeding into an area where massacres had recently occurred. An aid worker described their attitude:(21)
The governor spoke with the soldiers, trying to convince them to let us pass. The soldiers told the governor in Kiswahili, 'we haven't finished our work yet. Tell them to go. We are not afraid to kill them. If they go past us, we will shoot to kill. We know that if we kill one of them, they will go away and leave us alone.'
The delegation could clearly hear the sound of heavy road machinery working nearby where refugees had been massacred in previous days.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the ADFL soldiers in Mbandaka had said that more important than fighting Mobutu's soldiers was the elimination of refugees.(22) To the contrary, non-Tutsi ADFL troops told Congolese in areas where massacres had taken place that the killing of refugees was not their business;(23) one Katangese general stated in a private conversation that he had nothing to do with refugee affairs.(24)
Other humanitarian organizations operating in eastern and central Congo expressed their frustration from having been manipulated by the ADFL in what they described as "bait and kill" operations. While attempting to locate and set up assistance stations for refugees dispersed in the forest, agencies claimed that they were required to be accompanied by an ADFL "facilitator." According to their reports, after refugees had been located and put in groups to facilitate humanitarian assistance, access would be cut off to the refugees by ADFL military. Typically, after several days of no assistance, humanitarian groups would find the refugees had disappeared or been dispersed. Humanitarian agencies claimed that the "facilitators" would inform ADFL military of concentrations of refugees to expedite their killings.(25)
At least one agency ceased providing services to refugees in certain areas in protest of this practice by the ADFL, estimating that fewer refugees would die from a lack of humanitarian assistance than would die if their work continued to serve as an orientation tool for ADFL military seeking out refugees.(26)
V. WHAT KABILA HAS TO HIDE: A CASE STUDY
Human Rights Watch/FIDH visited three villages along an eighty-kilometer length of road, one of the principal routes followed by Rwandan and Burundian refugees who fled the camps in eastern Congo in October and November of 1996. This same stretch of road was traveled by the FAZ, ex-FAR, and refugees, and finally by the ADFL.
Human Rights Watch/FIDH spent several days along this road, interviewing villagers and community leaders who had witnessed killings or other human rights violations or participated in burials. Civilian refugees who had survived the trek through this area were interviewed in Congo-Brazzaville and gave accounts that corroborated with those of the Congolese witnesses.
Several mass graves and execution sites were visited. Most of the killings occurred during a three-day period during which front-line ADFL troops advanced through this area, overtaking and killing civilian refugees with knives, machetes, and bayonets. The three-day period is described below.
Humanitarian law violations committed by the FAZ and the ex-FAR along this same length of road are also described below.
The three villages visited by Human Rights Watch/FIDH in August are like many others in the region. The exact locations and names of these villages may not be disclosed, and the names of witnesses have been changed due to their clearly stated fear of reprisal by Rwandan or Kinyarwanda-speaking elements of the ADFL (see Intimidation of Witnesses section below). The real names of the villages and the sources used by Human Rights Watch/FIDH have been submitted to the U.N. Secretary-General's Investigative Team for further investigation.
In addition to those mentioned below, many others killings by the ADFL are likely to have occurred over the same eighty-kilometer length of road over the same three-day period. As noted below, villagers were reluctant to give information regarding the killings by the ADFL due to fear of reprisals. Over the several days that Human Rights Watch/FIDH visited the area, villagers came forward with progressively more information, sometimes revealing execution sites of mass graves that had been "forgotten" the previous day. Villagers spoke openly and apparently without fear of reprisal about the violations committed by the FAZ or ex-FAR.
Human Rights Abuses Committed by the FAZ
The FAZ arrived in the first village in small groups over a period of approximately three weeks. The first group of about seventy-five arrived in approximately eight vehicles, reportedly stolen en route, and consisted of many officers, including at least one colonel. The FAZ continued to arrive and depart progressively up until just prior to the arrival of the ADFL. No combat occurred in the area.(27)
In the area near the villages, measures taken by state authorities and traditional chiefs appear to have resulted in far fewer human rights abuses committed by the FAZ, as compared to other villages and cities in their path of retreat (see above). Local authorities in the first village, warned of the imminent arrival of the FAZ, instructed the local population to make cash and in-kind donations for the fleeing soldiers. Upon arrival, local chiefs and administrators presented the FAZ with abundant food and supplies, preventing widespread looting, according to those in the first village. Numerous residents of the village praised the measures taken by the local authorities and claimed that the FAZ created few problems.
The FAZ arrived first in about ten vehicles with ten people per vehicle. Hearing of their arrival, most of the population had fled into the forest. They were welcomed by the population that remained in the village. The military were treated well, given food, materials, gas, and money. The military behaved.(28)
It should be noted that the particular experience of villages in this area was an exception to the general pattern of human rights abuses committed by the FAZ during their retreat across Congo. Consistent testimonies from other regions depict acts of rape, killing, destruction, and looting perpetrated by the FAZ, as described above.
Human Rights Abuses Committed by the Ex-FAR and Interahamwe Militia
Community leaders and villagers in the villages stated that local authorities attempted also to prepare for the arrival of the ex-FAR, Interahamwe militia, and refugees, as had been done with the FAZ. Villagers described the arrival of the ex-FAR and the refugees as initially calm:
The first group was of about 3,000. They came in four single columns, two on the outside with guns, some in uniform, two columns of refugees on the inside. The military elements among them were strong and healthy; the civilian population was weak, emaciated, and sick. The chief had prepared their welcome. He had given instruction to give them free medicine in hopes of getting reimbursed afterwards. They stayed one night.(29)
With the arrival of more refugees the next day, the situation soon deteriorated. Employees of a major plantation in the area created a counting station near the first village where they recorded the passing of more than 9,000 refugees over the first three days. After that, they claimed they were too numerous to count. The flow continued over an eighteen-day period, ending with the arrival of the ADFL. UNHCR estimates that between 22,000 and 30,000 refugees traveled on this particular road between the villages, while thousands of others fled along different routes in the same area.
Abuses committed in the area by the ex-FAR and other armed exiles, presumed to be members of the Interahamwe militia, were largely related to foraging and pillaging to sustain themselves. These consisted primarily of theft, destruction, and violations of physical integrity, as well as some killings.
Many residents of the area claimed that refugees looted extensively along the main road between the villages as well as in peripheral villages. Villagers stated that ex-FAR in uniform or armed exiles would beat or kill people for food if they offered any resistance. Such allegations of killings or beatings were frequent but vague. Michel, a local humanitarian worker, described the impact of the refugees and ex-FAR in the first village:
Refugees looted extensively for food and materials. The local population fled into the forest. Refugees killed Congolese. I heard of one person killed twenty-two kilometers from here. I heard that two others were killed also.(30)
Accounts of looting and threats by ex-FAR or other armed exiles were more detailed. At a local plantation, one employee described how ex-FAR in uniform looted his home and threatened to kill his wife.(31) Human Rights Watch/FIDH visited storehouses at the plantation that had been emptied by the ex-FAR and vehicles, now recovered, that had been stolen and extensively damaged by the ex-FAR.
The civilian refugee population, in a deplorable health and nutritional state, also had enormous impact on the population of the first village, numbering less than 4,000.(32) Civilian refugees stripped fields of their crops, used schools and houses abandoned by villagers for shelter, and overwhelmed local health centers. Residents of the first village claimed that the loss of material goods and damage to property was still having a profound impact on the local economy. Jean, an employee of the plantation explained the effects of the refugees:
The chief had done an impressive job of preparing food and assistance for their arrival, attempting to avoid looting. When the food supply became insufficient, the refugees looted. They threatened the local population for food, and they threatened a local doctor to give them all his medicine. If the food was insufficient, they killed.(33)
In August 1997, UNHCR reported estimates of several hundred civilian refugees in the surrounding area mixed with small numbers of ex-FAR.(34) At this time, villagers were concerned about the presence of civilian refugees, ex-FAR and militia in the area due to both the immediate security threat presented by armed elements and the fear that the ADFL forces would return to hunt them down. Months after the passing of the bulk of the refugees, many local villagers still had not returned to their homes out of fear of further abuses by either of these groups.
Human Rights Abuses Committed by the ADFL
The violations committed by the ADFL in the area near the villages consisted primarily of widespread killings of civilian refugees. Refugee men, women, and children who were too weak or sick to flee were killed by the first units of the ADFL coming into contact with them. The killings in the villages and on the road between the villages were carried out over a three-day period as the ADFL troops advanced and overtook refugees. No combat took place in the area as the last of the ex-FAR, Interahamwe, and FAZ had left several days before the arrival of the ADFL.
In the Gondi area, killings were carried out almost exclusively with knives, machetes, or bayonets. Villagers hypothesized that this deliberate strategy of not using bullets was to avoid scaring off other refugees ahead on the road, to conserve ammunition, or to leave fewer traces of their killings.
The first three days of the ADFL presence in the villages are described below.
Day one: The ADFL troops arrived in the first village around 4:00 p.m.. Almost all the refugees had left at this point, except for a few too weak to continue. The first few hundred ADFL arrived on foot, eventually followed by commanders in vehicles. Villagers described most of the troops as "Rwandan" or "Kinyarwanda-speaking" and very well-armed. Two of their commanders spoke Kinyarwanda, English, and Kiswahili, while one was of Katangese origin.(35)
A nurse in the first village watched the arrival of the ADFL:
The first ADFL arrived on foot in a group of around one hundred. Their vehicles came later. Upon arrival, they killed thirteen refugees, ten in the yard by the Catholic church and school, three over there by the crossroads. The refugees were killed with knives and machetes; they were the weak ones who were sick or malnourished. The soldiers who killed them spoke Kinyarwanda and French and told us the refugees were bad and should not be helped.(36)
Figure 1 ADFL Troops killed nine refugees in front of this school in the first village.
A community leader described the killings and going to the burial:
The ADFL came and found the last group of refugees. I didn't see the killings as everyone was fleeing. I went to the burial: they were fifteen in all. Nine were killed in front of the Catholic church, next to the school; four more at the crossroads, and two over by the public works office.(37)
Jean helped to bury the bodies near the Catholic church and school:
They were a mix of men and women. There was one child about three years old. We buried twelve of them here in this grave and put one in with the other grave with two people who died from sickness. There are two more people in that third grave over there.(38)
Seventeen people in all were reportedly buried, fifteen killed by the ADFL, two from disease. The graves were visited and photographed by a Human Rights Watch/FIDH researcher accompanied by villagers who had participated in the burials. The three graves measured 3.5 by 3.5 meters, 1 by 3.5 meters, and 1 by 3 meters. Each grave was marked by a depression of 15 to 20 centimeters of freshly turned earth.
One local health worker initially claimed that there had not been any killings by the ADFL. When we asked him about the fifteen in the mass graves that Human Rights Watch/FIDH had visited, he confirmed that he too had assisted in the burial and that the refugees had been killed with sharp objects. He later told Human Rights Watch/FIDH in private that everyone in the village was frightened to speak about the killings because of the assassination of a local administrator by the ADFL.
Day two. The wife of a community leader explained how most of the ADFL troops left the first village the next morning and headed toward the second village, approximately thirty-eight kilometers away:
The first Alliance troops left the first village around 5:00 a.m. The two colonels stayed and had breakfast, leaving around 10:00 a.m. The killings had been done with knives, axes and machetes.(39)
The ADFL troops arrived on day two in the second village where they came upon several groups of refugees who were camped for the night. The refugees were unarmed and a mix of men, women and children. One Congolese eyewitness, who was in the second village and described the ADFL as Kinyarwanda speakers, stated:
The ADFL killed them in front of me with knives and machetes. I saw around fifteen cadavers, but I was trying not to look. The villagers were already burying refugees in groups of four or six in common graves. There were many, many killed; more than fifty.(40)
Another witness from the first village, who had accompanied the ADFL as a driver, said he saw between forty and fifty dead refugees in the second village upon his arrival. Residents of the second village reportedly witnessed the killings by the ADFL and later disposed of fourteen of the bodies in a defunct well, ten adults and four children, all unarmed civilians.(41) Human Rights Watch/FIDH photographed the well in which some of the remains of fourteen refugees were still visible.
Figure 2 Villagers dumped the remains of fourteen refugees
in this well . Some
of the remains are still visible.
At a bridge just past the second village, the remains of several campfires were still visible, with bones and skulls scattered in the brush nearby. As many as an additional fifty refugees had been killed at this site; bodies had been thrown into the river.(42)
In addition to those refugees killed by the ADFL, humanitarian agents from the first village stated that they had buried at least fifteen other refugees who had died due to disease, dehydration, or exhaustion between the first and second villages.
Figure 3 This skull was among many bones scattered arounbd the bridge.
Day three: The front-line ADFL troops advanced twenty-two kilometers from the second village to the third village on their third day in the area.(43) Human Rights Watch/FIDH saw and photographed the remains of at least thirty refugees along this segment of the road. Eyewitnesses to killings or villagers who had assisted in disinfecting sites accompanied Human Rights Watch/FIDH and explained the circumstances of some of the killings or described the nature of the wounds of the dead. The cause of death was at times not known; most often, however, the testimony of eyewitnesses describing how certain refugees were killed was corroborated with physical evidence on the site, such as smashed skulls or other physical trauma.
Witnesses from the area estimate that hundreds of refugees had been killed between the second and third villages alone, but that some cleanup had already taken place. A medical doctor with extensive experience in the area estimated that up to 1,700 people may have been killed between the second and third villages. Residents of the area were particularly reluctant to accompany Human Rights Watch/FIDH along this segment of road due to a fear of reprisal by the ADFL.
All bodies or bones photographed were in the road or within a few meters of the road, some in groups of up to eight, often near or in the remains of campfires. Many of the skulls contained holes or were fractured, suggesting blows with a heavy object. All bodies were in approximately the same state of very advanced decomposition or were skeletons. Many of the remains were clearly identifiable as women or children.(44)
Human Rights Watch/FIDH was guided by individuals who had accompanied the ADFL troops or participated in clean-up activities. Jean-Pierre, who disinfected bodies in the area, described one site seven kilometers from the second village :
We disinfected bodies in this area for about a week. Right here, there were eight in all, where the refugees had been camped. Some of them are gone now; I think animals may have taken away some of the bones. The bodies all had knife wounds.
Figure 4 This refugee and at least seven others at this site were killed by ADFL troops as they fled across Congo.
Another witness, who had carried gasoline for the ADFL,
accompanied Human Rights Watch/FIDH to a site approximately one kilometer
from this area where a refugee boy preparing food by the roadside was killed.
He was preparing food when the ADFL arrived and killed him with a knife and a machete. They cut his neck first, and then smashed his skull here on the left side.(45)
Figure 5 This refugee boy was preparing food at his makeshift
campsight when ADFL troops killed him with a machete and a knife.
Figure 6 The blow from the machete left a fracture near the left temple.
A photo taken by Human Rights Watch/FIDH of the site verifies a fracture to the left temple area of the skull. The skeleton of the boy lies in the remains of a campfire.
Seven kilometers further toward the third village lies a second bridge where Human Rights Watch/FIDH photographed the remains of six refugees. The skulls were partially smashed or contained holes and were in the vicinity of many campfires. One villager said he had accompanied a soldier whom he described as a Kinyarwanda-speaking colonel of the ADFL to the bridge shortly after the killings. He claimed that he had seen at least twenty-one bodies near the bridge but that many more had been thrown into the water.
We left [the first village] with a DAF truck and a motorcycle. We were in the second group with Colonel Cyiago. There were many cadavers near the second bridge. At night, the ADFL would do calisthenics and would go out into the forest. They held many meetings during the day. I remember a group of eight, a group of twelve, and one alone, but there were many more that had been swept away in the water.
Figure 7 The remains of these refugees are from a group of at least twenty-one
men, women, and children killed near the second bridge by the ADFL.
Figure 8 Of this group shown in Figure 7, the skulls of these five men,
women, and children were smashed and full of holes
Five kilometers from the second bridge is the third village, where UNHCR estimates that between 22,000 and 30,000 refugees had passed through a temporary camp. Numerous testimonies from Congolese, international humanitarian workers, and refugees in Congo-Brazzaville spoke of mass killings by the ADFL of refugees at the third village. A witness who had accompanied the ADFL to the third village stated that he saw several hundred cadavers in and around the camp upon his arrival.
On the road approaching [the third village], there were many, many cadavers. There were many more at the camp, several hundred. They were killed with knives and machetes, but right in the camp they had been shot, too.(46)
Civilian refugee survivors, interviewed in Congo-Brazzaville, stated that the ex-FAR had moved on long before the arrival of the ADFL and that no combat had occurred at the third village.(47) Congolese in the area similarly denied that combat had taken place anywhere near the third village.
Human Rights Watch visited the former refugee camp site at the third village which spread over some 800 meters of road and into the forest. The camp was littered with clothing, shoes, equipment and many bullet shells. No evidence of bodies or mass graves was present. According to villagers and relief workers, the site had been cleaned by the ADFL and the bodies of refugees, numbering in the hundreds, were dumped in a nearby river.
According to witnesses, the majority of these killings were carried out by Kinyarwanda speaking members of the ADFL, ethnic Tutsi from Rwanda, Uganda, and eastern Congo. Villagers consistently described elements of the ADFL who participated in killings as being "Rwandans." When asked to explain how they knew they were Rwandan, witnesses claimed that often the only languages spoken by refugees were Kinyarwanda or Kiswahili, and their morphology was different from Congolese: many were tall, very dark, and had facial features characteristic of some Tutsi.
1. Human Rights Watch/Africa, "Zaire: Transition, War and Human Rights."
2. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview with nongovernmental organizations working in Kindu, Kinshasa, March 1997.
3. See Human Rights Watch/Africa, " Zaire: Transition, War and Human Rights."
4. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview, U.N. official, Goma, November, 1997.
5. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview with officials from the Catholic church, Kinshasa, April, 1997.
6. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview with Rwandan refugees in Loukolela refugee camp, Congo-Brazzaville, August 9, 1997.
7. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interviews in Goma, Congo and Nairobi, Kenya, July and August 1997.
8. Human Rights Watch/FIDH telephone interview with former UNHCR official in Congo, September 23, 1997.
9. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview with UNHCR officials, Loukolela refugee camp, Congo-Brazzaville, August 9, 1997.
10. John Pomfret, "Rwandans Led Revolt in Congo," Washington Post, July 9, 1997.
11. Integrated Regional Information Network, Update 245, September 10, 1997.
12. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interviews, Mugunga refugee camp, October 29, 1996 and Loukolela refugee camp, Congo-Brazzaville, August 9, 1997.
13. See Human Rights Watch/Africa, "Zaire: Transition, War and Human Rights" (April 1997).
Human Rights Watch/FIDH interviews, Nairobi, Kenya, July 28, 1997, and Loukolela refugee camp, Congo-Brazzaville, August 8, 1997.
15. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interviews with church officials and humanitarian agents, Kinshasa and Goma, August 1997.
16 Or possibly Burundian. Kirundi, the national language of Burundi, may be confused with Kinyarwanda by those not fluent in these languages.
Congolese in the Kivus also claimed that the Kiswahili spoken by perpetrators was the Kiswahili of Rwanda, easily distinguished from the Kiswahili of eastern Congo.
18. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview, Kinshasa, August 5, 1997.
19. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview, Equateur, August 17, 1997.
20. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview in Kinshasa, August 5, 1997; Robert Block, "Congo Villagers Describe Horrific Killings of Refugees," Wall Street Journal, June 6, 1997.
21. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview with aid worker in North-Kivu, August 27, 1997.
22. Robert Block "Congolese Villagers Describe Horrific Killings of Refugees," the Wall Street Journal, June 6, 1997.
23. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview with Congolese from Mbandaka, Kinshasa, August 5, 1997.
24. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview with resident of Mbandaka, August 19, 1997.
Human Rights Watch/FIDH interviews with several humanitarian organizations, Nairobi, July 1997.
26. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview with aid organization, Kinshasa, August 1997.
Human Rights Watch/FIDH interviews with villagers, U.N. officials, and aid workers in the area, August 1997.
28. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview, first village, August 16, 1997.
29. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview, first village, August 16, 1997.
30. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview, first village, August 16, 1997.
31. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview, first village, August 15, 1997.
32. According to local health authorities.
33. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview, first village, August 16, 1997.
34. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview with UNHCR official, Congo, August 19, 1997.
35. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview, first village, August 17, 1997.
36. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview, first village, August 16, 1997
37. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview, first village, August 18, 1997.
38. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview, first village, August 16, 1997.
39. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview, near first village, August 18, 1997.
40. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview, near first village, August 19, 1997.
41. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview, second village, August 18, 1997.
42. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview, second village, August 17, 1997.
43. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview near the first village, August 18, 1997.
44. By size, remnants of clothing, and in some cases eyewitness testimony.
45. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview, road between second and third villages, August 18, 1997.
46. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview, first village, August 19, 1997.
47. Human Rights Watch/FIDH interviews, Loukolela refugee camp, Congo-Brazzaville, August 9, 1997.