An appropriate official response to the mutiny should have included efforts to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of killings and other crimes.25 Instead, the RCD unleashed its own orgy of violence. After having retaken the radio station and effectively ended the mutiny, RCD troops carried out indiscriminate killings of civilians, summary executions of military and civilian personnel, numerous rapes, beatings and widespread looting. They encountered no armed resistance during their operations; hence none of their crimes can be explained as "incidental" to military operations.
According to three separate RCD military sources interviewed by Human Rights Watch, several of the most highly placed RCD commanders, including the seventh brigade commander, Laurent Nkunda, were in Goma at the time of the mutiny, having just completed a training program at Gabiro military camp in Rwanda (Goma, in the far east of Congo beside the Rwanda border, is the political center of the RCD and the seat of the headquarters of its ANC armed wing). According to those military sources, Kinyarwanda-speaking commanders Richard Mungura, head of the military police, Franck Kamindja, commander of Bangboka airport, and Christian Ndayabo, S5 (in charge of civic and moral education) of the seventh brigade set up an emergency command structure to regain control of the situation during the mutiny, in the absence of the higher-ranking commanders. The military sources explained to Human Rights Watch that the Kinyarwanda-speaking commanders suspected Congolese officers from other ethnic groups of supporting the mutiny, a suspicion apparently reinforced by the attempted ambush of Mungura en route to a meeting with Ngwizani, and so excluded them from decision-making.26 Loyalists were said to have particularly suspected soldiers and commanders from neighboring Equateur province and soldiers who had served in the Kinshasa government army under the late presidents Mobutu Sese Seko and Laurent Kabila.
According to the military source, the emergency command structure made contact with the Goma command and reportedly received instructions from commander Balthazar, the G2 (in charge of military intelligence and security at the ANC central command). While awaiting reinforcements from Goma, they relied mainly on their own military guards for protection.
According to an RCD official, this emergency group ordered Ngwizani to arrest nearly a dozen commanders, including Ibuka; Mabele; commander Mwamba, S3 (in charge of operations) at the seventh brigade; platoon commander Bosele Tshutshuhe of Bureau 2 (military intelligence and security); Os Mabusu, an alias for the commander in charge of the military prison attacked by the mutineers; commander Ogi (position unknown), and Nyembo-Kilonda, company commander at the central command.27 Two women were also arrested: soldier Florence Mobeyi, and Marie Bagalet, a woman who worked as a secretary at the police headquarters. The commanders were originally detained at holding places inside Kisangani, including the depot of an air cargo company called GomAir, but were later transported to a metal container at Bangboka airport before all except Mabele, who managed to escape, were executed on the Tshopo bridge (see below).
At about 11 a.m. on May 14, two planes from Goma arrived at Bangboka airport bringing the officers who then took command of suppressing the mutiny and directing reprisals against civilians.28 Among them was commander Biamungu of the fifth brigade, who is a former leader in the Mai-Mai militia.29 In April 2001 Biamungu had been convicted in Goma of ordering his bodyguards to beat a policeman, Mwetombe Kamwizi, who had stopped the commander's car to allow some school children to cross the road at a designated pedestrian crossing. The policeman died and the RCD Operational War Council tried Biamungu and sentenced him to ten years in prison. Then U.N. special rapporteur on the Congo, Roberto Garreton, classified this case as "death by torture" in his August 2001 report to the U.N. General Assembly, although he did not mention Biamungu by name.30 By November 2001 Biamungu had been unofficially freed. According to Goma-based international observers, prison guards claimed that he was at the general hospital in Goma for medical treatment, but by January 2002, Biamungu was following a military training course in Rwanda.31
A second officer who arrived from Goma was Gabriel Amisi, also known as Tango Fort, assistant chief of staff for logistics, who has been implicated by international observers and a local Goma-based source in the summary execution of a soldier named Joe Lona Bifuko and in the torture of several detainees at the G2 military detention center in Goma in 2001.32 Also in the group were Laurent Nkunda, the Kinyarwanda-speaking commander of the seventh brigade, and at least three Kinyarwanda-speaking officers usually based in Goma and unknown in Kisangani.33 The commanders arrived with two platoons, an estimated 120 troops, most of them believed to have been Rwandan or Congolese of Rwandan origin. One platoon remained at the airport and the other went into town to the central command.34
According to the witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch, Biamungu, Nkunda, and Amisi appear to have been at the scene of many of the crimes documented in this report, in a position to know of them, and in some cases directing or participating in them; locally based commanders Mungura, Kamindja, Charles, Claude, Christian, and Santos also played important roles, as described below.
Kisangani, a city home to some 600,000 civilians, is administratively divided into five districts (known in French as communes): Makiso, Tshopo, Mangobo, Kisangani, and Lubunga. Each district is home to dozens of smaller neighborhoods (known in French as quartiers). The Mangobo district, home to some of the youth groups that the mutineers had sought to rally, including the Bana Etats-Unis, was one of the earliest targets of the repression. Almost immediately after RCD commanders arrived from Goma, they headed towards Mangobo and began a wave of killings, rapes, and looting.
On May 14 and for several days after, RCD troops killed scores of civilians in Mangobo district. Church and nongovernmental organizations listed at least twenty-one persons as having been killed in Mangobo. The total number of victims is not yet established, but all witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch were consistent in maintaining that those slain in Mangobo were unarmed civilians. 35 Those killings should be investigated as war crimes.
Soon after his arrival on May 14, commander Biamungu led his troops into Mangobo. According to a person who accompanied him, Biamungu was in charge of the operation. The witness said:
When we arrived at Mangobo, Biamungu gave the order to the platoon to shoot. We were with four vehicles. It was only the platoon [brought from Goma] because they had no confidence in the local troops. There was no armed resistance in Mangobo. Biamungu spoke to the troops in Kinyarwanda. He said, "Because they killed my Rwandan brothers, today the Congolese will pay. Shoot at everyone we see."36
A second witness saw Biamungu leave for Mangobo later in the day as well. He first saw Biamungu with others directing operations from under a canopy at the Simi-Simi airport. The witness said:
He [Biamungu] was the chief of the operation-I say this because he received a call from the national television for permission to broadcast and refused the request. With him were commandants Richard, Faustin, Santos, Bizimana-all Tutsis who use only their first names....
At that moment, Biamungu said, "Let's go to Mangobo." It was about 2 p.m. They went in a gray pick-up-Santos, Biamungu, and Bizimana.37
According to U.N. sources, RCD-Goma forces had effectively surrounded the Mangobo district by noon on May 14.38
The first civilian reported to be killed on May 14 in Mangobo district was twenty-three-year-old Raymond Temba, a university student. A witness to the crime said:
Around 11 a.m., we saw five soldiers on the road. Their head, I am sure, was Rwandan. He spoke with other commanders in Kinyarwanda on the radio. The chief kicked down the door and entered the Temba home.
Raymond had been outside washing. He had come back inside and . . . the [Rwandan commander] asked him in Swahili where the owner of the house was. Then the [Rwandan commander] ran into Raymond's room. Raymond was begging him, "Please don't shoot me." The commander then shot Raymond. Then he left.39
Raymond died while being transported to the hospital.
Catherine Tshiko, an eighty-nine-year-old vegetable seller at the main market in Mangobo, was returning home when she was met by a group of RCD soldiers. According to a witness, "They saw her and slapped her. She fell down. They picked up stones and began throwing them at her head."40 When the family learned of her death, they went to look for her body but could not find it. "The same soldiers took the body of [Tshiko] away," said the witness. "Until now, we don't know where it was taken."41
According to a source who accompanied commander Biamungu in Mangobo, Biamungu put the Kinyarwanda-speaking commander Santos in charge of collecting corpses from Mangobo and transporting them to an abandoned brewery by the Tshopo river, called UNIBRAS. "He [Santos] made four trips in his Land Cruiser double cabin [to transport bodies]," said the witness.42 He added that on the night of May 15, "Biamungu gave an order to deal with the bodies at the factory. . . . The bodies from UNIBRAS were dumped directly in the [Tshopo] river."43
At about 3 p.m. on May 14, RCD soldiers killed four men who were returning from their fields on the outskirts of Matete quarter of Mangobo, where they had been drinking palm wine. Three of the victims, Ernest Mongbanga Lingule, his brother-in-law Isaac Isabo Lotika, and a cousin, Camille Mongamba, lived on Avenue Fataki in Matete quarter; the fourth was not identified. According to a witness:
The soldiers forced them down on the ground and shot them dead on the spot. My [relative] was hit in the back, and bullets exited on the front. The soldiers walked away after that, leaving the victims to bleed to death.44
A second witness saw the same killings. He said:
I was on a bike with some food I had bought. A woman warned me not to continue because the soldiers would kill me. I fled into the forest and hid myself in fear. There were two men coming from the field. I saw them walking towards five or six military. The soldiers asked the men why they didn't greet them. They told the men to sit down. The soldiers had already gathered [stolen] a lot of bikes. Another soldier who was their commander came, he was a Tutsi, and said, "What are you waiting for? Kill them!" One of the soldiers shot the two men where they were sitting. They died right there. The same moment, two others came from the forest. They shot towards the boys and killed them.45
Constant Ebo, a sixty-five-year-old woodworker, was outside his home on Avenue Bolingoli in the Segama quarter of Mangobo at about 4 p.m. on May 14. A witness described how he was killed there by RCD soldiers:
Three soldiers saw him, and asked him for money. He retorted, "Where would a grandfather like me find money to give you?" They shot him on the spot, without any warning. A bullet hit him on the left side of his chest. He collapsed and was dead then and there.46
Late on May 14, RCD soldiers tried to rob and then killed forty-six-year-old Thomas Luwembo, a father of four, and his mother, sixty-six-year-old Agnes Lofutu, who lived near a military camp. According to a witness,
They caught [Luwembo] and began to beat him with their guns. There were six military, including one Rwandan. They said, "Give us money, if we need to take you to our commander you will die." He said that he had no money, that he had gone out drinking and had spent his money. He tried to go back to his house, and they said, "You live so close to the camp, you must be military [a mutineering soldier]." Then they shot two bullets at him. My grandmother tried to stop them, but they also shot [and killed] her.47
In a similar case, five soldiers, two Congolese and three Kinyarwanda-speaking, sought to rob seventy-year-old Beatrice Mbutu in the Walendu quarter of Mangobo at about 4 p.m. on May 15. Mbutu's sixteen-year-old granddaughter, Lucy Lisaga, and other young women in the home fled into the rear bedroom, afraid of rape, but the grandmother stayed in the front room. A witness who was present related:
The soldiers began demanding money, speaking in Swahili. They said, "Give us money, if you don't, we will kill you." They were in military uniforms-some wore green berets, others red ones. [Beatrice Mbutu] said, "I don't have any money, if you kill me you won't be any richer because I don't have any money." Immediately, a Congolese soldier shot her in the stomach with a single shot.48
Beatrice Mbutu died immediately. As soon as the soldiers left, Lucy began screaming for help. The soldiers heard the screams and returned to shoot her. She died two days later.49
RCD soldiers raped women in the course of reprisals against the civilian population of Kisangani, as they have done elsewhere.50 Most victims of rape are too afraid and ashamed to report the crime. One raped woman explained to Human Rights Watch researchers that she had not even told her husband and relatives about the rape, because disclosure would mean certain divorce. Human Rights Watch researchers were able, nonetheless, to document three different incidents involving a total of eight women, and local human rights and humanitarian groups recorded others.
At about 1 p.m. on May 14, seven soldiers ordered a twenty-two-year-old mother of two and five other women to help carry goods they had looted from neighboring homes to the nearby Simi-Simi airport. After they arrived there, the commander-who spoke Kinyarwanda with one soldier and Swahili with the others-told the six soldiers to "Divide the women among you, have sex with them, and then kill them." One of the women recounted:
When they divided us, the commander didn't want a woman but all the others took a woman. . . . One of the women managed to flee. Then, all five of us [who remained] were raped. They raped us in the bush. The soldier who was with me was violent because I didn't want to do this. So when the soldier I was with was finished, he told his friend [whose intended victim had run away] to come take his place. I started crying.51
The second soldier took pity on her when he realized she had a young baby and told her to quickly run away or she would be killed. This victim does not know what happened to the other women.52
In a second case, a group of five soldiers detained a twenty-year-old mother of one near the Mangobo central market around 4 p.m. on May 15, and ordered her to transport their loot to Simi-Simi airport.53 The victim recounted:
We arrived at Simi-Simi airport at about 7 p.m. They were telling me that they were going to kill me. At the airport, the Rwandan who was the commander gave the orders to the Congolese soldiers to kill me. One of the Congolese soldiers took me aside and said, "Sister, I don't want to kill you, if you have sex with me, I will save you."
When I refused, another soldier began to beat me. The soldier who wanted to have sex with me ripped off my clothes and then raped me. The other soldiers were drinking nearby. When he finished raping me, he told me to run. I had only a small piece of cloth to cover myself with. I ran to the town and got there at about 8:30 p.m.54
In a third case, an eighteen-year-old woman went to comfort neighbors for the death of a relative killed by RCD soldiers. Several of the soldiers who were still in the house took her into the bedroom and raped her. A witness who was present said that the girl, who is about 17 or 18 years old, had just started studying at the university. He said, "I saw them taking her into the house, and she later told me that she had been raped."55
The rapes at the airport took place in the vicinity of military barracks where high-level commanders had set up a command center, suggesting that the rapists anticipated no punishment from their superiors even if caught.
Many RCD soldiers looted or extorted money and goods from civilians during the crackdown. As recounted above, soldiers killed some civilians who could not or would not hand over money or goods as demanded, and raped and killed some of the women whom they had forced to carry looted goods to their barracks. In other cases, soldiers agreed to spare persons threatened with death in return for money. One forty-two-year-old father of eight said:
[Three] soldiers entered our house and told everyone to go into the living room and lie down. They were speaking Swahili with a Rwandan accent, and they looked Rwandan. ... When they entered, they asked in Swahili, "Where is the money?" Then they spoke Kinyarwanda among themselves. . . .One of them said, "Kill them," in Swahili. One of the boys who had fled to our house said, "Don't kill us" and gave them money, 18,000 FC [US $72]. They saw the money and said, "Let's Go."
When they left, I went to look at the window. There were other soldiers, and I saw them transporting radios, mattresses, television sets, even animals such as ducks, bicycles, many things. They had forced some boys to carry things. About 200 meters away, they were looting another house.56
One family fled their Walendu neighborhood home on May 14 after a relative had been killed by RCD soldiers. When they returned the next day they found that their house had been looted. "Everything was gone," said one of the family. "They stole all of our clothes, pots, pans, plates, mattresses, all of our household things, the radio, our suitcase, shoes-everything was gone."57
Soldiers robbed the father of a victim on his way home from the hospital. He recounted, "We met three soldiers who shot at us several times and then ordered us off the motorcycle. I had 3500 FC [about US $14] in my pocket to buy blood for my son at the hospital. They took the money out of my pocket and then drove off with the motorcycle, and it still has not been found."58
RCD soldiers also stole a vehicle and looted goods belonging to Jesuits who work at a church in Mangobo. At about 2 p.m. on May 14, the Kinyarwanda-speaking commanders named Santos and Bizimana, accompanied by seven or eight soldiers, stopped the priest Xavier Xabalo, aged sixty-two, who was driving a wounded woman to the hospital. The group had been looting shops in Mangobo. Commander Santos insulted Father Xabalo and the soldiers arrested him and stole his watch, his bag, and 3000 FC (about US $12). They confiscated his gray pick-up and loaded it with looted goods, which they delivered to a small house near Simi-Simi airport.59 According to a witness, Biamungu was also present at the airport at the time.60
Soon after, Santos, Biamungu, and Bizimana headed to the Jesuit church in the gray pick-up. A witness at the scene said that the soldiers arrived firing wildly and indiscriminately, forcing seventy-five-year-old Father Guy Verhaegen to crawl to safety. Commander Santos asked Father Verhaegen where the satellite phone was located, and when the hard-of-hearing priest pointed to the public phone instead, Santos kicked him so hard that he flew back several meters. The soldiers stole a motorcycle, a Kenwood radio with a transformer, a satellite phone, a portable computer, television, short-wave radios, and many other goods. The priests later publicly protested the looting and had some of their goods returned.61
A father whose elder son was among the first killed at Mangobo told Human Rights Watch investigators: "I have another son who is quite young. We couldn't console him since the day he saw his brother bleeding to death. He is now traumatized and suffers from fits of trembling. Sometimes he faints."62
Representatives of international health agencies operating in Kisangani told Human Rights Watch researchers that they were caring for many children traumatized by the violence they witnessed in mid-May. One agency was providing counseling to about thirty such children and noted that many families were too poor and too afraid to seek such assistance.63
The Tshopo is a tributary that meanders parallel to the Congo River in the Kisangani area and joins the main river a few miles downstream from the city. Its narrow course and rapid waters at the northern edge of the city proved ideal for the establishment of a hydroelectric power station and its feeding dam, a thermal station, and a water treatment plant. A small metal bridge spanning the Tshopo, barely wide enough for one vehicle to cross at a time, is used by farmers bringing their produce to the market and by soldiers crossing back and forth to the Kapalata military camp (see figure 1).
RCD soldiers chose this site, somewhat distant from the city center, as a place for executions that they apparently hoped to keep secret. But many witnesses saw or heard what happened, and at least two intended victims survived to tell about the slaughter. In the days after the executions, the river itself revealed the perpetrators' secret, carrying dozens of semi-naked bodies, many of them bludgeoned or decapitated and still bound by the upper arms, past crowds of shocked local and international observers.64
In the early afternoon of May 14, local people saw soldiers cordon off a wide perimeter around the bridge. One described the operation:
[T]he vehicles dropped off the soldiers. . . every few meters along the way, all the way to the water treatment plant about a kilometer and a half away. . . . At the bridge they dropped off eighty. They made two trips, dropping off about 200 soldiers altogether. They closed the bridge, refusing to allow anyone to cross. At 4 p.m., there was a family who wanted to go bury someone who died from malaria, but they were not allowed to cross the bridge.65
Witnesses reported seeing three RCD commanders supervising this deployment, Gabriel Amisi (Tango Fort), Laurent Nkunda, and Bernard Biamungu. "We just watched the military movements and saw the three commanders arrive," said one witness. "Tango Fort was on a jaguar motorcycle. The others came in the trucks. At 4:30, the commanders had a meeting for about thirty minutes."66 Human Rights Watch researchers have obtained the plate numbers of vehicles used in the operation.67
At around 8 p.m. witnesses saw several vehicles arrive at the bridge. One said:
It was a dark night and I could see only the front lights of the vehicles as they stopped just before the bridge and unloaded people. The front lights stayed on as these people crossed the main bridge on foot to the other side of the river. There were about ten rotations of vehicles dropping people in this manner.... This movement lasted from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m.68
Witnesses also reported hearing gunshots over the noise of the running water, which was louder than usual because the gates of the dam had been opened in the early evening. "At 11 p.m., we heard the first shot from a revolver," said one witness. "After the second and third shots, I started counting until I had heard eighteen gunshots from a revolver with intervals of few minutes between the shots. The sound came from the direction of the bridge."69 Human Rights Watch has no evidence to indicate that commanders Nkunda, Amisi, and Biamungu were still present at the bridge at the time of the executions.
A Lingala-speaking soldier who took part in the killings later told a local acquaintance that his group had come from Goma with Tango Fort. According to his local interlocutor, he said, "Friend, on Tuesday night, we killed more than a hundred of your officers on the bridge.'"70 A local villager reported that other soldiers said that their orders were to shoot police commanders and to slaughter the military commanders in other ways. When he asked how the soldiers could kill their commanders, they responded that they would have been killed themselves if they had refused. They told him that a soldier in their group who refused to obey had been the first killed.71
The bridge remained closed the next day but dozens of witnesses saw soldiers apparently trying to scrub blood off of it.72 That night, at about 7 p.m., other soldiers came to the bridge. At 11 p.m. commander Mungura arrived, acting on orders from Nkunda according to a military witness, and at the same time, three Land Cruisers and the car stolen from the Mangobo priests pulled up at the bridge, carrying twenty-eight prisoners who had been kept at the airport.
According to a soldier present, the soldiers who killed others on the bridge were all from Goma. He said:
There was a cordon of soldiers on the bridge. We took the bound prisoners out and then onto the bridge. Biamungu, Mungura, Santos, S3 Lubutu [the officer in charge of operations at Lubutu], Franck [Kamindja, commander of Bangboka airport] were there. Biamungu was in charge, he was hitting the prisoners. He then gave the order to kill the prisoners with bayonets and throw them in the river. They were bound and gagged. Some were killed with bayonets, others had their necks broken. They put them in bags and threw them in the river. The two women prisoners were not there.73
When the killing was finished, the killers went drinking while Biamungu and others went to the building of the RCD "Presidency".74
Beginning on May 16 and for the next two days fishermen and other local residents saw bodies in the river, most of them male, but at least one female.75 One Tshopo commune resident who crossed the bridge on foot said:
I counted thirty bodies and bags between the dam and the small rapids, and twelve beyond the rapids. Most corpses were in underwear, and many were beheaded. On the bridges there were still many traces of blood despite attempts to cover them with sand, and on the small maize field to the left of the landing the odors were unbearable.76
More bodies surfaced on May 17 when one witness counted seventeen corpses, one of them female. He did not count the body bags. When soldiers noticed that the bodies were attracting a crowd of spectators along the river at about 8:30 a.m., they started shooting in the air, closed the bridge, and summoned help over their radio.77 Two vehicles of reinforcements soon arrived. The soldiers ordered two MONUC vehicles and others of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that were in the area to leave immediately and they cordoned off the bridge.
According to a soldier who accompanied him, Mungura arrived with the reinforcements, again acting on orders of Nkunda who summoned him by radio from Ketele camp and told him to go to the bridge with whatever troops he could assemble. Mungura found some thirty soldiers and went to the bridge where civilians were trying to pull bodies from the river.78 A soldier who was present said:
Commander Biamungu, Mungura, Christian of the fifth brigade, Com. Frank [Kamindja], and the two other Rwandan commanders that I didn't recognize at the airport were there. Biamungu gave an order to shoot in the air to disperse the population. Then, commander Biamungu ordered Commander Christian to go find some people to help recover the bodies.
We went to the market nearby and we found twenty-seven young men. One of the two Rwandans from Goma explained they had to recover the bodies and they would be paid U.S. $150.
We pulled nine bodies out of the river and put them in a truck. Then we went to Bangboka airport. The owner of the truck was left behind at kilometer 13, and we continued to the airport. It was the old Leyland truck from UNIBRAS.
At Bangboka airport, we found four MONUC planes. We hid the truck behind a building. Later [after MONUC officers had left], we put the bodies in a communal grave that had already been dug at the far side of the airport runway. As we were putting in the bodies, other soldiers arrived with thirteen bound men-policemen whom I didn't know. It was now about 10 p.m. After this, we went to eat and drink at the military post until 2 a.m.79
Over the following days, bodies continued to be found in the river further from Kisangani, twenty at Yakossu, twenty-five kilometers downstream, another twenty at Vananonge, ninety kilometers away and ten bodies at Yanliambi, some 150 kilometers from Kisangani.80
On and after May 14, RCD soldiers killed other soldiers, policemen, and civilians at Ketele military camp, the military base at Bangboka airport, and the UNIBRAS brewery.
Soon after recapturing the radio station, Commander Ibuka ordered all police to return to their camps or posts.81 He was himself arrested soon after and was reportedly among the first to be executed.82 But in the meantime dozens of policemen followed his orders and returned to their camps or posts. By midday, the seventh brigade military police were interrogating policemen at one post after another, arresting any who had deserted their posts in the early morning hours, either to flee the mutineers or because they were coerced into joining them.
The military police marched those arrested, with arms bound behind their backs, to camp Ketele, the military barracks closest to the city center. According to eyewitnesses, several policemen of this group were immediately taken to an isolated area within the camp, told to sit down and turn their backs to their guards. The guards then shot them even as they were crying that they were innocent.83
RCD soldiers executed other policemen at the military base at Bangboka airport. Human Rights Watch interviewed a soldier (see his testimony above) who saw the thirteen bound policemen being escorted to the mass grave at the end of the runway and told to get into the grave-he then left the scene and never saw the prisoners again, leading him to believe they were executed.84 Another witnesses reported a similar scene at the airport, although he claimed it had happened the night before. He saw some Kinyarwanda-speaking soldiers guarding a group of about a dozen detained soldiers who were sitting on the ground. He said that at about 11:30 on May 14, he saw the soldiers order the prisoners to march to a nearby ditch. "I couldn't see what was happening at the ditch because of the darkness," said the witness, "but I distinctly heard the prisoners weeping, screaming, and crying for mercy as they were being slaughtered. I recall one pleading with the soldiers: `why do you have to slaughter me? At least kill me with a bullet.'"85
On at least one occasion, RCD soldiers disposed of some bodies of military victims directly into the Congo River. One witness saw a commander throwing three dead bodies of soldiers into the river, not far from the center of Kisangani.86
On the afternoon of May 14, three RCD soldiers took bicycle taxis to the UNIBRAS brewery and then refused to pay the fare to the young bicyclists. Instead they forced them into a villa in the UNIBRAS compound where a dozen soldiers were milling around in the living room. The soldiers ordered the three young men to lie down on a plastic sheet that was covered with blood and told them that they were soon to be killed. One of the three was saved by a Congolese soldier who knew him, but more than a month later, at the time of the Human Rights Watch researchers' visit to Kisangani, the others remained missing.87
In the course of suppressing the mutiny, RCD authorities arrested dozens of soldiers and policemen whose current whereabouts remain unknown. According to a witness well-placed to follow the events, "at least ten people were arrested before [the commanders from Goma] arrived ...by the evening the number was well above thirty.... This is just the commanders, but then many police officers in uniform were also later arrested, regardless of cause."88 As already described, at least some of the arrested soldiers and police were summarily executed in Kisangani, but according to witnesses, several detained senior commanders were sent to Goma for interrogation, including Ngwizani who was sent there on May 18.89
Commanders Nyembo-Kilonda and Ibuka were among the officers seen by a witness in the holding cell at the central command of the seventh brigade in Kisangani at about 5 p.m. on May 14. Nyembo was stripped to his underclothes. At about the same time, the witness saw Biamungu outside the holding cell, kicking and beating detained soldiers who had their arms bound by the elbow behind their backs: "Biamungu was telling the prisoners that they would soon be beheaded," said the witness. "I also saw him punching Marie Bagalet, the secretary at the police, in the stomach. He ordered her thrown in a white Land Cruiser with four other soldiers."90
In a hand-written document provided to Human Rights Watch, commander Mabele, who survived the executions at the Tshopo bridge by managing to run away, claimed that sixty-three RCD soldiers and an undetermined number of policemen from the provincial detachment of the national police in Kisangani had been summarily executed.91 Among fifteen army and ten police commanders whom he names as victims are the detained officers Nyembo-Kilonda and Ibuka. Because Mabele had fled to a remote village far from Kisangani, Human Rights Watch was unable to conduct an interview with him.
On May 15 Jean-Pierre Lola Kisanga, the acting spokesman of the RCD-Goma executive committee and head of its department of culture and communications told a journalist that RCD authorities had arrested ten insurgents, "including a former major, and captain (in the former Zairian Armed Forces)."92 Three days later he told another journalist that RCD authorities had arrested seventeen backers of the insurgents, a reference to youths who demonstrated in support of the mutiny.93 Since this time, RCD-Goma has made no statement about the detainees.
Response of the RCD
As news of the killings at Kisangani became known and international criticism mounted, the RCD talked of an international commission of inquiry and then dispatched its own fact-finding team of four officials to Kisangani under the direction of Jean-Pierre Lola Kisanga.94
Intent on minimizing the extent of the abuses, Kisanga noted on arrival that "there were deaths on both sides." 95 In June he announced that the investigative commission had recorded forty-one deaths in the mid-May events: four Rwandans lynched by mobs, "seventeen civilians were killed by stray bullets, and eleven mutineers drowned while trying to flee by canoe." Kisanga brushed off the many accounts of bodies floating in the river, saying the dead were "mutineers who tried to flee by canoe and drowned." 96 The RCD gave the results of the inquiry to Asma Jahangir, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
Given the evident responsibility of RCD forces in carrying out the killings, it is unlikely that victims or families of victims would have sought contact with the RCD commission of inquiry. The commission may not have sought to collect information from such persons: of the two dozen survivors or relatives of victims interviewed by Human Rights Watch researchers, none had been contacted by the commission. In addition, relatives of several missing commanders who sought information about their whereabouts subsequently had their homes looted by RCD soldiers. The RCD official who provided this information to Human Rights Watch researchers said that news of these attacks discouraged others from requesting searches for the missing.97
In a May 17 statement, the RCD denied that any Rwandan troops, or even reinforcements from its own army, had been sent to Kisangani to quell the mutiny. It acknowledged only the commanders Gabriel Amisi and Laurent Nkunda were dispatched from Goma to Kisangani and said that their contribution had permitted the "repression of the armed insurrection of May 14."98
25 See: "Eastern Congo Ravaged: Killing Civilians and Silencing Protest," Human Rights Watch Short Report, vol. 12, no. 3 (A), May 2000, pp. 17 and 19 "The RCD authorities are claiming that they are applying Congolese national law. According to Congolese law, authorities may detain a person for forty-eight hours without charge and, once charges are filed, may hold the accused for another two weeks in a jail before transfer to the central prison. Those exercising authority may carry out arrests for reasons related to the armed conflict but they are bound by the provisions laid down in international humanitarian law. In particular, court proceedings must be regular and respect the right of the accused to be informed without delay of the offence he is alleged to have committed, the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and the right to choose his own defense lawyer, etc. (...) The RCD has taken over the existing judicial institutions and retained most of their personnel. The RCD has failed to provide for the regular pay of many government employees, including magistrates. In an increasingly desperate economic situation, judicial personnel frequently demand bribes to do their work and citizens are forced to pay to obtain justice. According to many detainees, family members had to pay bribes in order to be allowed to visit or to bring them food and prisoners had to pay bribes in order to receive better treatment. Guards are reportedly sometimes reluctant to release prisoners because they will then lose part of their income."
28 See also the first independent report of the arrival of a "planeload of reinforcements of RCD troops" from Goma in: "DR of Congo: Reporting Calm in Kisangani, U.N. Stresses Need for Demilitarization," U.N. News Service, May 15, 2001.
30 "Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo," A/56/327, August 31, 2001, para. 74. The name of the slain policeman is given in other reports obtained by Human Rights Watch as Mweka Meto.
32 Human Rights Watch, confidential electronic correspondence with international observers and a local Goma-based source in Goma, July and August 2002, on file at Human Rights Watch. According to these sources, on November 13, 2001 Lona threw a grenade in a crowd of bystanders during a dispute with his girlfriend, killing three. Commander Amisi reportedly summarily executed Lona a few hours later.
98 "Communiqué de Presse du Rassemblement Congolais Pour la Democratie de ce Vendredi 17 Mai 2002..." May 17, 2002, available www.congo.co.za/News/French/17_Mai_2002.htm (accessed July 16, 2002).