The Southern Africa Development Community, the Organization of African Unity,
the European Union, and the United Nations
Since shortly after the outbreak of hostilities in August, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) has played a leading role in a succession of regional summits that attempted to mediate a peaceful solution to the conflict in the DRC. Human rights concerns did not figure prominently in these summits, nor were they incorporated into the plan which emerged from the process as a basis for ending the conflict. The failure to incorporate rights issues into the negotiating process and assure that political and military leaders would be held responsible for abuses during the conflict raised concerns that negotiations may serve as a way of avoiding accountability and foster the culture of impunity in central Africa. While the European Union threatened to cut off aid to states involved in the conflict if a negotiated solution could not be found, the respect of human rights by the armies of E.U. aid recipients was not specifically mentioned as a condition to avoid a suspension of aid.
SADCs peace initiative was seriously compromised from the onset by the internal rift within SADC between Zimbabwe, Angola, and Namibia, which intervened militarily on behalf of the Congolese government, and South Africa, SADCs chair, which has persistently pushed for a political settlement. South Africa initially opposed the military intervention by SADC members in Congolese affairs, but later accepted it as legitimate.107 The armed conflict has shattered the regional alliance that backed President Kabilas own rebellion less than two years ago and now pits Angola and Zimbabwe against their former allies Rwanda and Uganda, who back the rebels.
Successive rounds of regional talks broke down, mainly due to president Kabilas adamant refusal to negotiate face to face with the rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy. Another major hurdle in the negotiations was the persistent denial of Rwanda, until early November, of its direct involvement in the conflict. Rwanda and Uganda backed the rebels demand to be present in any peace negotiations, short of which, the Rally threatened, it will not be bound by any cease-fire deal. The SADC meetings were coordinated by a regional heads of state committee chaired by Zambia and supported by the Organization of African Unity (O.A.U.) and the United Nations (U.N.). Both the O.A.U. and the U.N., as well as other leading members of the international community, initially took back seats in the search for peace, leaving the lead to SADCs committee.
The role of the Organization of African Unity in the search for peace also failed to resolve the conflict. France, the O.A.U., and the U.N. attempted to arrange a pre-cease-fire agreement between the key players in the conflict in Paris in late November, during the 20th Franco-African Summit. An expected formal agreement again failed to materialize in a summit of the O.A.U.s Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, and Resolution held in Ouagadougou on December 17. The meeting, which was to last two days, adjourned after twelve hours, exposing a lack of direction and effectiveness in O.A.U.s mediation efforts.
On August 31, the U.N. Security Council issued a presidential statement that expressed alarm at the plight of the civilian population throughout the country and urged all parties to respect and protect human rights and respect humanitarian law. The statement also called for a cease-fire, the withdrawal of foreign forces, and the engagement of a political dialogue to end the war in the Congo. In another statement issued on December 11, the council reiterated its call for a peaceful solution to the conflict in the Congo, and said it would consider the active engagement of the United Nations to assist in implementing an effective cease-fire there, as well as a political settlement. The council also condemned violations of human rights and humanitarian law and pressed for unhindered humanitarian access to those displaced by the war.
The collapse of the close alliance between Rwanda and Congo appeared to have encouraged the latter to revise its relationship with the United Nations. On January 11, Leonard Okitundu, the DRCs minister for human rights, extended a written invitation to the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Congo, Roberto Garretón, to return to the country, and promised that the rapporteur will be able to work freely and transparently to investigate human rights conditions in the country. Garreton subsequently planned a mission to Congo for February 16-23, 1999. Appointed under a 1994 resolution of the Commission on Human Rights, Garreton was effectively barred from entering the country in 1997 following stinging reports he issued about human rights conditions under President Kabila, including massacres of Hutu refugees during the 1996-1997 war which brought Kabila to power. Okitundu also stated that the government planned to establish a national commission of inquiry into the massacres, and reiterated his country's readiness to cooperate with a renewed U.N. probe of the massacres, a promise repeatedly made by DRC officials since the start of hostilities with Rwanda, reflecting a clear reversal in their position. Up until August 1998, Kabilas government had consistently blocked attempts by the United Nations to carry out a complete investigation of these massacres. A previous Human Rights Watch investigation found that Rwandan forces were responsible for the majority of the massacres of Hutu refugees during the 1996-1997 war. The Congolese government has yet to show that it is willing to investigate and hold accountable its own soldiers who may have participated in these and other abuses. The failure to date of the international community to do so and punish those found responsible has contributed to the growing culture of impunity in the region.
The European Union
The E.U. repeatedly expressed concern about the Congo crisis, including a rhetorical commitment to human rights, but neither its statements nor the missions conducted by its special envoy had any discernible impact. However, E.U. representatives have taken an increasingly public stance threatening to link E.U. aid programs to the ongoing Congo crisis. In September, Jacques Santer, president of the European Commission, stated that the European Union should revise its assistance programs to ensure that no aid was being used to further the conflict.108 In November, during President Kabilas visit to Brussels, E.U. Development Commissioner Joao de Deus Pinheiro referred to Congos human rights obligations under article 5 of the Lome Convention and made it clear that the resumption of E.U. development assistance to Congo would depend on preconditions including the establishment of the rule of law and a process of democratization.109
A stronger line more directly threatening E.U. aid to countries involved in the Congo crisis was taken in December with an E.U. statement issued at the Paris Club consultative group meeting in Kampala: If no political solution is aggressively pursued, the E.U. might find it increasingly difficult to continue its present level of budgetary assistance to countries involved in the conflict, should they persist on the military option. The statement went on to call for an immediate cease-fire and the beginning of a process leading to the withdrawal of all foreign troops. Ugandan involvement in Congo was also singled out by the E.U. statement, which acknowledged Ugandaslegitimate security concerns along its border with Congo but continued: it is doubtful that the current level of military presence and activity up to 700 kilometers away from the Ugandan border solely serves that purpose.110
The United States
Although the U.S. has repeatedly called for a cease-fire and the withdrawal of all foreign forces, U.S. officials have missed many opportunities to raise concerns about human rights violations by all parties to the conflict and to exert pressure on those parties to abide by international human rights standards. The early reluctance of the U.S. to publicly criticize reported abuses by the RCD forces and the armed forces of the allied Rwandan and Ugandan governments fueled a widespread perception that its policy is skewed in favor of those parties, especially since it is toward those forces that the U.S. has the most immediate forms of leverage and influence. Unfortunately, even the U.S. delegation led by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Susan Rice that visited the region in late October-early November 1998 failed to transmit a clear and public message about the need for all parties to respect fundamental human rights and for those responsible for abuses to be held accountable.
On the Congolese government side, U.S. policy has been considerably more forceful. Condemnation of the round-up and killing of ethnic Tutsis, the use of hate radio, and the potential for a new round of genocide have figured prominently in U.S. statements, as have calls for the Kabila government to institute an inclusive and participatory transition to democracy. More recently, the U.S. has also stressed its concern about reports that elements of the ex-FAR and Interahamwe are being recruited by Kabila, condemning any collaboration or cooperation with these individuals or the genocidal policies they espouse.111
Regarding the rebel forces, however, U.S. statements have been limited to general admonishments to respect human rights and the safety of humanitarian workers. Throughout 1998, no specific mention was made about reports of massacres and summary and arbitrary executions, such as the Kasika massacre, or of the rebel practices of arbitrary arrests, illegal detentions, and disappearances or killings of those suspected of opposing their policies. On January 7, 1999, however, the State Department issued a statement raising concerns about press reports of a massacre of civilians by RCD forces between December 30 and January 1obviously referring to the Makabola massacre, but not naming this localityand urging the rebels to allow access to the site by independent investigators.
The confused messages being sent by the Clinton administration were particularly muddled in mid-October, when the U.S. went forward with an International Military Education and Training (IMET) program for the Rwandan military, even though the other African countries scheduled to participate had pulled out. Although the programs reported content was not controversial, focusing on military administration, the U.S. decision to continue military training for one of the parties to the Congo conflict which has been accused of involvement in atrocities against civilians only serves to reduce credibility for U.S. policy.
In its overriding concern about genocide in the region, the U.S. administration frequently lost opportunities to condemn other instances of crimes against humanity. As Ambassador at large for War Crimes Issues David Scheffer acknowledged in a December 10 address, [h]istory ...teaches us that we have to be prepared to respond to situations of widespread or systematic killing, rape or other abusesand that those deserve the same moral condemnation, criminal prosecution, and efforts to prevent and punish that we give to the crime of genocide. Crimes against humanity can occurand have occurredin situations where the specific requirements of genocide have not beenmet. We must not underestimate their significance.112 This recognition of the broader problem of crimes against humanity in the region has not been given sufficient attention by U.S. policy makers.
Beyond the current political considerations, U.S. assistance to the Congo remains subject to legislative constraints, primarily the Brooke amendment and the Faircloth amendment.113 Under the State Departments Office of Transition Initiatives, however, in December 1998 the U.S. re-opened two of three regional offices (Kananga and Lubumbashi; Bukavu in the east remains closed) that had been effectively closed since the start of the crisis in early August. The stated purpose of the regional offices has been revised, toward the support of civil society and support for the creation of conditions that would make a viable transition to democracy possible.
This report, based on findings from a November and December 1998 mission to Congo and states in the region, was written by Scott Campbell, consultant to the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, and Suliman Ali Baldo, senior researcher in the Africa division. The report was edited by Alison DesForges, consultant to the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, Janet Fleischman, Washington director of the Africa division, Wilder Taylor, general counsel, and Michael McClintock, deputy program director. Production assistance was provided by Zachary Freeman, associate for the Africa division, Patrick Minges, publications director, and Fitzroy Hepkins, mail manager.
Human Rights Watch
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The staff includes Kenneth Roth, executive director; Michele Alexander, development director; Reed Brody, advocacy director; Carroll Bogert, communications director; Cynthia Brown, program director; Barbara Guglielmo, finance and administration director; Jeri Laber, special advisor; Lotte Leicht, Brussels office director; Patrick Minges, publications director; Susan Osnos, associate director; Jemera Rone, counsel; Wilder Tayler, general counsel; and Joanna Weschler, United Nations representative. Jonathan Fanton is the chair of the board. Robert L. Bernstein is the founding chair.
Its Africa division was established in 1988 to monitor and promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights in sub-Saharan Africa. Peter Takirambudde is the executive director; Janet Fleischman is the Washington director; Suliman Ali Baldo is the senior researcher; Alex Vines is the research associate; Bronwen Manby and Binaifer Nowrojee are counsels; Zachary Freeman and Juliet Wilson are associates; Alison DesForges is a consultant; and Peter Bouckaert is the Orville Schell Fellow. William Carmichael is the chair of the advisory committee.
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46 Persons below the age of eighteen are considered children, (Article 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, September 2, 1990). All states are party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child except for the United States of America and Somalia.
47 Led by then-rebel Kabila, the Alliance des forces démocratique pour la libération du Congo (ADFL) was a coalition of political parties from eastern Congo that, with support from Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, and Burundi, overthrew Zairian President Mobutu in a seven-month war beginning in October 1996. For more details, see the following Human Rights Watch short reports: What Kabila is Hiding: Civilian Killings and Impunity in Congo, vol. 9, no. 5 (A), October, 1997; Uncertain Course: Transition and Human Rights Violations in the Congo, vol. 9, no. 9 (A), (also available in French).
48 Human Rights Watch interview with humanitarian agency, Kinshasa, November 15, 1998. The seven-year-old soldier had been seen by a doctor from the aid agency in the Kapalata demobilization camp near Kisangani early in 1998.
49 In mid-1997, national television featured a parade of what the government claimed were 5,900 FAC child soldiers in Mbuji-Mayi. Organizations involved in demobilization estimated that the total number in November had likely increased by several thousand.
50 Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 38 (2) and (3).
51 "Décret-Loi No. 194 relatif aux partis et aux groupements politiques, signed on January 29, 1999, Daily Bulletin of the Congolese Press Agency (in French), Monday February 1, 1998.
53 Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with UDPS spokespersons, New York / Brussels & Kinshasa, February 3, 1999.
54 "Congo - Kinshasa: DRCongo--Security forces raid party headquarters, Kinshasa, AFP, Dec. 16.
55 "Congo - Kinshasa: Kabila on Brussels visit, Congo conflict, Le Soir, Brussels, November 19, 1998.
56 The five were: Adrien Phongo, general secretary of the UDPS and Mukendi wa Mulumba, a lawyer and advisor to the partys leader; Kamitatu Masamba, leader of the Democratic and Social Christian Party; Bofassa Djema, leading member of the Popular Movement for the Revolution; and Kisimba Ngoy, a leader of the National Federalist Party.
57 A hand-picked constitutional committee handed a draft constitution to the president in March 1998 for approval. A procedure to create a constituent assembly was nominally established by the government in May to review the draft. Authorities adopted a cumbersome procedure for the selection of assembly members from lists of applicants who, by mid-June, had reportedly reached 10,000. The assembly was never formed. Instead, the task of reviewing the draft constitution was entrustedto a Technical Commission headed by the minister of justice after the war broke out.
58 "RCD military and its allies or RCD forces in this report refers to forces from the Rwandan, Ugandan, and Burundian militaries, and/or members of the FAC (referred to as the RCD army) that have defected to the RCD and are under the command of Congolese officers.
59 Most of the abuses committed by the FAC and their allies in the front line areas are described in the western Congo section of this report.
60 These intertwined conflicts between different ethnic groups in eastern Congo have been exacerbated by the absence of rule of law by the governments of President Kabila and former President Mobutu. People whose ancestors were Rwandan have been subject to a number of changes in Congolese law which could arbitrarily deprive them of their right to nationality. These changes and a threat by the vice-governor of South-Kivu to expel Tutsi in 1996 were among the contributing factors to the 1996-1997 war. Many politicians and others in the Mobutu and Kabila administrations have sought to tailor nationality laws in a fashion that would exclude many ethnic Hutu and ethnic Tutsi from citizenship, thus depriving them of many important rights, including the right to vote and the right to hold office. See Human Rights Watch and FIDH report Forced to Flee.
61 During interviews with Human Rights Watch, RCD authorities repeatedly expressed their adherence to international human rights standards. In a public RCD Political Declaration delivered in Goma, August 12, 1998, they further proclaimed their recognition of the principles contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, and the international pacts.
62 Human Rights Watch interview with RCD military commander, December 8, 1998.
63 Details of the church killings were obtained by Human Rights Watch through a telephone interview with church officials in Kinshasa, New York, September 1, 1998. These details were confirmed by several witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch in Bukavu who had carried out investigations in Kasika.
64 Estimates vary of the total number of victims in the area of the four villages. One investigation conducted by individuals who participated in burials and spoke with witnesses claimed that the total number killed included sixty-six at Kasika, 618 at Kilongutwe, and approximately twenty in Kalambi. They claimed to have the names of the victims. Another investigation, carried out in part by witnesses of the events at Kasika, found that the total killed included 385 at Kasika, forty-three at Zokwe, ninety-five at Kalama, and 373 at Kilongutwe. This second investigation identified by name forty-two of the dead. Catholic clergy estimate that a total of over 1300 were killed during these incidents.
65 Human Rights Watch interview with official of Catholic church from Kasika area, Panzi, December 9, 1998.
66 "Massacres-Genocides at Kasika-Kilungutwe, territory of Mwenga, South Kivu by Tutsi rebel troops in DRC, report by the NGO CADDHOM, September 9, 1998.
67 Human Rights Watch interview with a relative of one of the victims of Kasika, Bukavu, December 16, 1998.
68 Human Rights Watch interview with official of Catholic church from Kasika area, Panzi, December 9, 1998.
69 Report following field investigation by local NGO, Bukavu, September 9, 1998. In an interview with Human Rights Watch on December 15, 1998, the author of this report explained that in one village he looked inside a round, adobe hut which had been set afire with gasoline and saw a waist-high pile of the remains of bodies. The flesh and clothes of the victims had burned into a substance that looked like tar. Similar circumstances elsewhere made it impossible to tell how many people had been incinerated at this and other sites.
70 In addition to the Department of Justice and Human Rights, the commission was to include representatives from the Department of Territorial Administration, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Governors Office of South Kivu, and the RCD army.
71 "Les Violations des droits de lHomme commises sur le territoire de la République Démocratique du Congo entre août et septembre 1998, Rapport Bimensuel, Department of Justice and Human Rights, Goma, September, 1998.
72 "Rapport on the massacres of people at Bushaku and Lemera, territory of Kalehe, 21-22 October, 1998, report from NGO in Kalehe, November 3, 1998. The author and researcher of the report, interviewed by Human Rights watch in Bukavu on December 9, provided the family names of the ten people killed, who included six children, one a ten-year-old girl.
74 Human Rights Watch interview, Bukavu, December 10, 1998.
75 One investigator of a Congolese NGO who had interviewed survivors and visited the sites where killings took place stated that the total number of dead was sixty-six.
76 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, December 11, 1998.
77 Human Rights Watch interview with NGO, Bukavu, December 11, 1998.
78 Human Rights Watch interview with Congolese from Uvira, Bujumbura, December 12, 1998.
80 "500 Civilians Reportedly Massacred by Rebels in DRCongo, Agence France Presse, January 5, 1999.
81 Report from nongovernmental organization from Uvira, January 2, 1999.
82 Jude Webber, "Rebels Deny Congo New Year Massacre of 500, Reuters, January 5, 1999.
83 Human Rights Watch interview with traders in Goma market, December 4, 1998.
84 "Bimonthly Report: Human Rights Violations Committed in Congo between August and September 1998, Department of Justice and Human Rights, RCD, Goma, September, 1998.
85 "UNHCR expresses concern over forced returns to Sudan, UNHCR Press Release, October 8, 1998, Geneva.
86 Human Rights Watch interview, humanitarian NGO, Nairobi, November 25, 1998.
87 On December 18, 1992, in resolution 47/133, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance which states that enforced disappearances occur when persons are arrested, detained or abducted against their will or otherwise deprived of their liberty by officials of different branches or levels of Government, or by organized groups or private individuals acting on behalf of, or with the support, direct or indirect, consent or acquiescence of the Government, followed by a refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned or a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of their liberty, thereby placing such persons outside the protection of the law. The governments of Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi, are subject to this declaration. While the RCD is not recognized as a government, it has publicly adhered to the international bill of human rights and claimed responsibility for protecting human rights in territory under its control.
88 Human Rights Watch interviews, Kigali, November 19, 1998 and Goma, December 1, 1998.
89 Human Rights Watch interview with survivors, Goma, December 11, 1998.
90 Site visit to Goma International Airport by Human Rights Watch, December 5, 1998.
91 During an interview with Human Rights Watch in Goma on December 6, the subject was unable to use his arm.
92 Many RCD commanders, including those from the Rwandan and Ugandan militaries, often used first names only and sometimes changed their names or altered them to Congolese-sounding names. Many did not wear uniforms. These practices, similar to those used by Rwandan forces in Congo during the 1996-1997 war, complicated the identification of these officers.
93 Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Nairobi, November 28, 1998.
94 Site visit by Human Rights Watch, Goma, December 5, 1998.
95 Human Rights Watch interview, December 11, 1998. Ngoyi, a Congolese name, was reportedly one of the many officers of the Rwandan Patriotic Army fighting in Congo who had assumed Congolese names to hide their identity.
96 Human Rights Watch interview with lawyer of the wives of the nine victims, Goma, December 5, 1998. One of the military involved in the abduction was a Congolese from Monigi who had joined the RPA.
97 Human Rights Watch interview, Goma, December 1, 1998.
98 Human Rights Watch interviews with human rights NGOs in Goma and Bukavu, December 4 and December 7, 1998.
99 This pressure on rights activists increased dramatically following an incident, in early April 1998, in which the Congolese government arrested an investigator from the U.N. Secretary-Generals Investigative Team (UNSGIT) in Goma and expelled him to Kinshasa, where government officials seized and photocopied sensitive documents, including names of informants and their signatures on their testimonies about the massacres. In the following weeks, the National Intelligence Agency (Agence nationale de renseignements, ANR) questioned leading activists in Goma about their contacts with the United Nations Secretary Generals Investigative Team (UNSGIT) and asked them to submit copies of their monitoring reports and lists of their projects, and names of their international partners and funding agencies. Monitoring groups were particularly targeted, forcing at least a dozen prominent rights defenders from north and south Kivu into exile, some of them after going through horrendous ordeals of arbitrary detention and repeated torture. One member of the Grande Vision for Human Rights NGO in Goma, Gallican Ntirivamunda, was arrested and accused of cooperating with the U.N. investigation. Ntirivamunda was held for several months and repeatedly tortured. He remained in detention under the rebel RCD administration, reportedly at the military lockup knownas Bureau two" in Goma, accused of being a collaborator with Interahamwe. During a Human Rights watch site visit to Bureau two, RCD military commander Sylvain Mbuchi stated that Ntirivamunda had gone missing on November 17 during a military operation which attempted to use him to trap Interahamwe.
100 Human Rights Watch interview with local NGOs, Goma, December 2, 1998.
101 Human Rights Watch interviews, Bukavu, December 8 and December 10, 1998.
102 Human Rights Watch interview with the governor of South Kivu, Bukavu, December 7, 1998. He referred to the November 14, 1998 Plan de Paix a twelve-page document signed by eight members of the Coordination Office of the Civil Society of South Kivu.
103 Human Rights watch interview with womens development and human rights NGO, Panzi, December 10, 1998.
104 Human Rights Watch telephone interview to Brussels, New York, December 14, 1998.
105 "UNICEF condemns recruitment of DRC children by rebels, government, AFP, Geneva, August 14, 1998.
106 Human Rights Watch interview with humanitarian NGO, Bukavu, December 8, 1998.
107 "Congo military intervention is justified - Mandela, Reuters, September 3, 1998.
108 Laide de lUE devrait être refusée aux belligérents, selon Jacques Santer, Agence France-Presse, September 6, 1998.
109 Agence Europe, "E.U./Congo: Mr. Pinheiro specifies conditions under which E.U. could resume cooperation and financial support to Congo," Brussels, November 27, 1998.
110 E.U. warns of aid cutoff to countries with troops in DR Congo, Agence France-Presse, December 9, 1998.
111 United States Concerned about Rwandan Refugee Movements, Statement by James Rubin, Spokesman, U.S. Department of State, November 13, 1998.
112 Ambassador David J. Scheffer Delivers Remarks on Genocide Recognition and Prevention at Genocide Convention at the Holocaust Museum, Washington D.C., December 10, 1998.
113 The Brooke amendment prohibits U.S. assistance to countries in arrears on their debt. Section 575 of the 1999 appropriations bill, known as the Faircloth amendment, states that no funds can be provided to the central government of Congo until the President reports to Congress that the central government is: 1) investigating and prosecuting those responsible for human rights abuses in Congo and 2) implementing a credible democratic transition. Assistance can be provided to promote democracy and the rule of law as part of a transition program.Human Rights Watch