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Prosecute DR Congo’s General Amisi

Former Rebel Commander Emboldened by Impunity for 2002 War Crimes

Gabriel Amisi, a commander of the Rwandan-backed rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy, at the airport in Kindu, Democratic Republic of Congo, September 2002. © 2002 AP Photo/Rodrique Ngowi

In May 2002, the Rwandan-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy-Goma (RCD-Goma), a rebel movement in the Democratic Republic of Congo, carried out countless atrocities in the northern city of Kisangani. To quash a mutiny, top RCD-Goma commanders coordinated a brutal campaign of repression, indiscriminately killing civilians, summarily executing captured combatants, and committing numerous rapes, beatings, and widespread looting. More than 160 people were killed within just a few days.

Gen. Gabriel Amisi, also known as “Tango Four,” then the assistant chief of staff for logistics of the RCD-Goma army, was directly implicated in these abuses, Human Rights Watch research found. He was seen at Tshopo Bridge, shortly before RCD-Goma fighters summarily executed police and soldiers. For days afterwards, fishermen saw bodies in the river. A resident who crossed the bridge on foot reported “unbearable” odors.

Amisi is also accused of commanding troops that, in September 2002, massacred at least 56 civilians and likely abducted scores of others during an offensive against Mai-Mai militia allied to the Congolese government.

Instead of being prosecuted by the government, Amisi later joined the Congolese army and rose through the ranks. He continued to command troops responsible for serious abuses, and now serves as deputy army chief of staff in charge of operations and intelligence.

The impunity Amisi was afforded as an officer in Congo’s army appears to have emboldened him. He stands accused of overseeing a network distributing ammunition for poachers and armed groups, and of commanding troops who between 2015 and 2018 violently repressed political demonstrations against then-president Joseph Kabila. He is also implicated in the deployment of former M23 rebel fighters in the capital, Kinshasa, to crack down on protesters in December 2016.

Congo’s current president, Felix Tshisekedi, said holding abusive officials accountable for past crimes would be a priority for his administration. Seventeen years after RCD-Goma’s terrible crimes rocked Kisangani, he should keep his promise, remove Amisi from his post, and help victims and their families finally get justice.

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