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D.R. Congo: Army Should Not Appoint War Criminals

Congolese Government Must Investigate and Prosecute Warlords, Not Reward Them

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s transitional government should investigate and prosecute militia leaders responsible for massacres and other grave war crimes in the northeastern Ituri district, not reward them with high-ranking posts in the country’s newly integrated army.

On January 10, the Congolese Chief of Staff appointed five former warlords from the Ituri district in northeastern Congo to serve as generals in the country’s army. Four of the five new generals—Jérôme Kakwavu, Floribert Kisembo, Bosco Taganda and Germain Katanga—are alleged to have committed serious human rights abuses including war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Hundreds of witnesses have told Human Rights Watch that these four commanders ordered, tolerated or personally committed ethnic massacres, murder, torture, rape, mutilation and the recruitment of child soldiers. According to United Nations estimates, the conflict in Ituri has cost the lives of more than 60,000 civilians.

“Appointments like these raise serious questions about the Congolese government’s commitment to justice and human rights,” said Alison Des Forges, senior advisor to the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. “The government needs to take these warlords to court, not give them responsible positions in the army.”

The government is due to install 32 other militia commanders from Ituri as colonels, lieutenant-colonels and majors—among them Rafiki Saba Aimable, who was convicted of arbitrary arrest, aggravated by torture, and sentenced to 20 years in prison in July.

The Congolese authorities contend that integrating these commanders with abusive records is a way of removing them from Ituri, thus making it easier to end the fighting there. However, the government has given no guarantee that these new officers will in fact be posted outside Ituri.

The International Criminal Court, which has begun investigating grave violations of international humanitarian law in Ituri, could potentially indict one or more of these militia commanders.

International donors—including the Belgian government and the European Union—are funding projects to help rebuild Congo’s army.

“Donors must insist that the Congolese government prosecute warlords accused of killing and raping civilians,” said Des Forges. “They must ensure that their funds are not used to train and equip human rights abusers.”

Can These Men Be Trusted in the New Congolese Army?

On December 11, 2004, President Joseph Kabila signed a decree naming six leaders of armed groups from Ituri as generals in the Congolese army (FARDC) and naming thirty-two more to other senior ranks. This week five of the new generals were installed in the army. In the last two years four of the generals and several others of the newly named officers commanded combatants who committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and others violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in Ituri. Human Rights Watch researchers gathered hundreds of testimonies documenting these crimes, including those below, in missions to the region between 2001 and 2004. [1]

1. Germain Katanga – newly appointed General in the FARDC
Leader of the Patriotic Force of Resistance in Ituri (Forces des Resistance Patriotique d’Ituri, or FRPI).

According to witnesses, Germain Katanga helped lead one of the largest massacres in Ituri, that at Nyakunde Hospital in September 2002. Over a ten-day period his Ngiti combatants (later known as the FRPI) together with soldiers from the Congolese Rally for Democracy-Liberation Movement (RCD-ML) systematically slaughtered at least 1,200 Hema and other civilians selected on the basis of their ethnicity. They set up barricades to prevent civilians from fleeing and hunted down those who had hidden. They tortured some of those captured and then forced them to transport looted goods to a nearby village. There they massacred them. Germain Katanga also led FRPI combatants at other massacres, including those in Bunia, Komanda, and Bogoro in 2002 and 2003.

2. Jérôme Kakwavu – newly appointed General in the FARDC
President of The People’s Armed Forces of Congo (Forces Armées du Peuple Congolais, or FAPC).

FAPC forces under the command of Jérôme Kakwavu have committed widespread and serious human rights abuses, including summary executions, torture and rape. In October 2004 FAPC combatants under the command of Jérôme arrested 24 civilians and beat them with large wooden sticks on their heads and backs. Two died immediately and four others died subsequently from their injuries. Between 2002 and 2004 Commander Jérôme ordered five public executions of soldiers accused of crimes without any judicial proceedings having taken place and in some cases he carried out the executions himself. According to several witnesses, combatants commanded by Commander Jérôme have tortured civilians accused of opposing him or of supporting his rivals. In one case, a victim told Human Rights Watch that Commander Jérôme sat in a chair and watched as FAPC soldiers whipped him 500 times.

3. Floribert Kisembo Bahemuka – newly appointed General in the FARDC
Leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots – Kisembo Wing (Union des Patriots Congolais, or UPC-K), a splinter group of the UPC.

Former military chief of staff of the predominantly Hema UPC, Floribert Kisembo was one of the commanders responsible for a campaign of executions and forced disappearances of civilians of Lendu origin and others who opposed UPC policies in Bunia in late 2002. According to local witnesses, they tortured and killed 100 people. UPC troops under the command of Kisembo also participated in ethnic slaughter of civilians at several places, including Songolo, Mongbwalu, Kilo, Kobu and Lipri. In the town of Kilo in December 2002, Commander Kisembo ordered civilians to dig their own graves before his combatants massacred them. The victims included women and children, some of whom were killed by blows from a sledgehammer. Commander Kisembo split from the UPC in early 2004 setting up a rival wing called the UPC-K and naming himself as president.

4. Bosco Taganda – newly appointed General but not yet installed
Acting Leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots – Lubanga faction (UPC-L).

Former UPC Chief of Operations and now the acting leader of the UPC movement in Ituri, Bosco Taganda has been involved in numerous massacres and other serious human rights abuses. In Songolo in August 2002 UPC combatants under Bosco’s command surrounded the town and went house-to-house killing Lendu and Ngiti civilians with firearms, machetes, or spears. From August 2002 to March 2003 Commander Bosco participated in hunting down, arresting, and torturing approximately 100 persons, members of the Lendu ethnic group and others opposed to UPC policies in Bunia. According to U.N. peacekeepers, Bosco’s UPC was responsible for killing a Kenyan U.N. peacekeeper in January 2004 and kidnapping a Moroccan peacekeeper later in the year.

5. Rafiki Saba Aimable – newly appointed Colonel in the FARDC
Chief of Security of the UPC.

As a senior commander in the UPC, Rafiki Saba shared responsibility for the hunting down of Lendu civilians and others opposed to the UPC, described above. One victim of abuses committed at that time told Human Rights Watch researchers how he was kept in an underground prison for four days with corpses before being taken out and brutally beaten. More than a year later he stills bore scars from the beating all over his body. On November 8, 2003 Commander Rafiki was arrested and a few months later the local court in Bunia found him guilty of arbitrary arrests, aggravated by torture, and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. He is currently incarcerated in Kinshasa.

6. Salumu Mulenda – newly appointed Lieutenant-Colonel in the FARDC
Senior commander in Jérôme’s FAPC, former member of the UPC.

Salumu Mulenda was one of the commanders directing massacres of civilians between 2002 and 2004 at such places as Mongbwalu, Kilo, Kobu, and Lipri. According to witnesses, Salumu ordered the late 2003 execution of civilians who were participating in peace negotiations. His combatants surrounded the place where discussions were being held in Kobu and massacred the community leaders who were inside. According to U.N. estimates reported to the Security Council, Commander Salumu led military operations that killed at least 350 civilians. In 2004 Commander Salumu joined Jérôme’s FAPC forces and was present when soldiers were executed supposedly as punishment for crimes but without trials having been held.

[1] See Human Rights Watch, A Short Report, Ituri: “Covered in Blood” – Ethnically Targeted Violence in North-eastern DRC, July 2003; Uganda in Eastern DRC: Fuelling Political and Ethnic Strife, March 2001; “Chaos in Eastern Congo: UN Action Needed Now,” A Briefing Paper, October 2002; “D.R. Congo: Executions, Torture by Armed Groups in Ituri,” press release, October 22, 2004; and upcoming publications. Also U.N. Security Council Letter from the Secretary General to the President of the Security Council, Special Report on the Events in Ituri January 2002 – December 2003, July 16, 2004.

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