Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page


The response of the international community has been incommensurate with the scale of the disaster resulting from the war in the Congo. Its support for political and diplomatic efforts to end the war has been relatively consistent, but it has taken no effective steps to abide by repeated pledges to demand accountability for the war crimes and crimes against humanity that are routinely committed in Congo.

United Nations Security Council

The Security Council has consistently supported the Lusaka peace process, including by establishing the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) to monitor its implementation. To encourage the peace efforts and to better inform themselves, Security Council ambassadors have traveled to the region annually since 2000. Through Arria Formula briefings in 2001 and 2002,99 they invited analysis of the situation from nongovernmental organizations, including Human Rights Watch, and from the U.N. special rapporteur on the DRC. The Council has tasked a special panel of experts with investigating the illegal exploitation of Congolese resources by other nations.

The Council and the U.N. Secretary-General have frequently denounced human rights abuses and the humanitarian disaster that the war unleashed on the local population. But they have shown little will to tackle the responsibility of occupying powers for the atrocities taking place in areas under their control, areas where the worst violence in the country takes place. Hence Rwanda, like Uganda, has escaped any significant sanction for its role.

The recent history of Kisangani demonstrates this lack of international resolve. After the June 2000 battle between Rwanda and Uganda, the Security Council demanded that the two countries withdraw their forces from Congolese territory and make reparations for the loss of life and property in Kisangani.100 Two years later, Uganda has left Kisangani after suffering a military defeat in the city at the hands of the Rwandan troops but Uganda remains in the Congo, and Rwanda continues to control the city through its local proxy force, the RCD. Neither has paid any reparations, a failure about which the Security Council has remained silent.

U.N. Mission in Congo (MONUC)

The war crimes documented in this report were committed despite the presence in Kisangani of dozens of MONUC observers and some one thousand soldiers meant to protect the U.N. presence. The headquarters of MONUC Sector 2, the Kisangani unit, includes a military component, with its observers and contingents, and a civilian component with human rights and political officers and humanitarian and child protection advisors. The Kisangani sector is the largest in the Congo, covering 500,000 square kilometers, but its human rights division had only four officers at the peak of its strength and only three in May 2002.101

Paragraph 7 of Security Council Resolution 1417 reaffirmed MONUC's mandate to take necessary action to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence.102 The residents of Mangobo district were under imminent threat of physical violence in the early afternoon of May 14 as a column of RCD soldiers marched into their neighborhood, but MONUC took insufficient steps to protect the civilian population.

MONUC officers observed the arrival of two planeloads of RCD soldiers in the late morning. They also observed the gunfire that afternoon and evening in Mangobo district. In addition to the information available from MONUC's own observers and extensive local contacts, at least one international worker brought the crisis and killings to the attention of MONUC officers on the afternoon of May 14 and entreated them to act.103 At the time, the mutiny had long since been put down.

MONUC military and civilian officials repeatedly attempted to secure meetings with RCD-Goma officials to express their concern about the use of excessive force, but only managed to secure a meeting at the RCD-appointed governor's office in the afternoon of May 15. During that meeting, the deputy force commander and MONUC's political and human rights officers met with the RCD authorities and pressed them to exercise restraint in re-establishing order.104 MONUC obtained the release of the two detained missionaries on May 15, and provided shelter for seven individuals, mostly civil society activists, who faced credible threats to their lives. 105 Civil society activists and human rights defenders felt particularly threatened because RCD-authorities had publicly accused them of supporting the mutiny and of acting as agents for Kinshasa. The deputy force commander visited Mangobo on May 15 and heard reports from the population about the reprisal raid of the previous day. MONUC's military patrolled the city in the following days, sometimes accompanied by the human rights officers.106

But on May 14, at the time killings were still taking place, the deputy force commander of MONUC, Brigadier-General Roberto Martinelli and local commanders decided not to deploy military observers to Mangobo and other affected areas, apparently concerned about MONUC casualties.107 The United Nations should investigate the failure of MONUC to take proactive steps to "protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence," as was the case on May 14 in Kisangani. While Human Rights Watch believes that a deployment of military observers in Mangobo could have significantly influenced the unfolding events, but we do not have access to all the thinking behind the decision not to deploy. Among the questions to be investigated is whether MONUC felt it was sufficiently armed to effectively carry out its mandate, and whether MONUC commanders believed they could count on the support of the troop-contributing nations when carrying out their mandate and risking the lives of MONUC personnel.

In the immediate aftermath of the killings, MONUC summoned human rights officers from other sectors. Together with local staff and the head of the Goma office of the Human Rights Commissioner's Field Office in Congo, they conducted a prompt and thorough investigation of the crimes. They concluded that at least fifty people had been killed and publicly accused the RCD of grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.108 Following the issuance of their report, the Security Council on May 24 reiterated its demands that the RCD demilitarize the city. It asked the U.N. secretary-general to weigh the possibility of increasing troop deployment in the city, and in an unprecedented move, expressed its interest in receiving a joint report investigating the events from the High Commissioner for Human Rights and MONUC.109

Reaction of the RCD to U.N. Initiatives

Even as the MONUC inquiry was underway, the RCD sought to discredit MONUC for having refused "to publicly condemn calls for murder and ethnic hatred" that the RCD claimed had been broadcast by the mutineers.110 Adolphe Onusumba, the chairman of the RCD, accused Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General (SRSG) Namanga Ngongi of being biased in favor of Kinshasa and of spreading its propaganda. He demanded Ngongi's departure and "definitive dismissal."111 By May 31, the RCD barred Ngongi from areas under its control. The same week, they expelled three MONUC workers from Kisangani, including the chief of the human rights team, Luc Henkinbrant.112

Facing increasing scrutiny of their conduct during the May events, RCD commanders appeared intent on sending a strong message to MONUC about their impunity. On June 17, the commander of the seventh brigade, Laurent Nkunda, and several armed guards entered U.N. premises at the river port of Kisangani without authorization. They took away two civilian security guards and assaulted them, causing them some injuries. Commander Franck Kamindja also entered the same compound without permission later that day. The U.N. secretary-general issued a strong condemnation of the incident and reminded the RCD of its obligations to ensure the security of U.N. staff, but he failed to insist that the commanders responsible be disciplined.113

After a protest from the deputy SRSG in the DRC, the RCD apologized, as did Nkunda, who sought to explain away the beating of the civilian guards by saying that he thought they were Congolese.114

U.N. Commissioner On Human Rights

On July 16 the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, and the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, briefed the Security Council on the Kisangani killings. It was the first time that the High Commissioner addressed the council on the situation in one country and reported on an investigation by a special rapporteur. Drawing on the investigation done by Asma Jahangir, the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the High Commissioner concluded that the RCD-Goma was responsible for the killing of at least 163 people at Kisangani. She called on authorities to arrest those who ordered or were involved in the massacre but stopped short of naming those responsible. She warned of further bloodshed, particularly if those responsible for the May massacre were not brought to justice.115

The Security Council responded to the briefing on July 23 by issuing a Presidential Statement on behalf of all its members. In its Presidential Statement, the Security Council stressed that RCD-Goma "is responsible for the massacres that took place after regaining control over the city's radio station on May 14." The Security Council demanded that RCD-Goma "take the necessary measures to bring the perpetrators and those among them who ordered or were involved in the massacre to justice."116

The Security Council further stressed that "Rwanda has a duty to use its strong influence" to ensure that no further war crimes were committed by RCD-Goma. MONUC and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights were requested by the Security Council to continue their investigations into "the massacres in Kisangani," and the Security Council recalled MONUC's "mandate to extend its protection ... to civilians under imminent threat of physical violence." However, MONUC's military capacity was not expanded to ensure that it had adequate means to carry out its protection mandate.

The Present Situation

At the time of her report, the High Commissioner stressed that many civil society activists remain in hiding and believe their lives to be at risk. Witnesses necessary for bringing killers, rapists, and looters to justice also remain afraid, knowing their testimony could help convict important figures in the army and police. Ordinary citizens live in fear of authorities who, far from protecting them, can turn against them for political or personal ends. Kisangani continues to be a very insecure place for those who fall afoul of RCD commanders: During its June visit to Kisangani, Human Rights Watch documented two post-mutiny cases in which RCD army commanders in Kisangani used their soldiers to settle personal scores with civilians. In both cases, the victims were targeted for murder. Fortunately both escaped, one, a young man, with serious injuries, the other, a young woman, with scars and deep trauma.

In these circumstances, the role of MONUC in helping to promote security for the civilian population is crucial. At the end of July, MONUC began training fifty-four civilian police instructors, meant to be the first contingent for improving the capacities of local police. In resisting pressure to demilitarize Kisangani, the RCD has cited, among other reasons, the need first to train a competent police force to take over the enforcement of law and order. With this training, local officers should be able to relieve MONUC of some of the burden of protecting civilians and should also contribute to making possible the withdrawal of RCD forces from the city.

However, the actual implementation of the MONUC's police training program will be crucial in determining its success. The RCD remains reluctant to implement the immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Kisangani demanded by the U.N. Security Council during its May 1 visit to Kisangani. Many observers believe that the RCD may attempt to continue its control of Kisangani by inserting many of its own military into the ranks of police trainees ahead of the training.117 The MONUC police training program should take the necessary steps during the application and selection process to ensure that RCD commanders and personnel responsible for war crimes and other abuses are excluded from participation in the police training program.

99 The Arria Formula, introduced in 1993, is an informal arrangement allowing the Security Council to be briefed about international peace and security issues.

100 Security Council resolution 1304 (2000) on the situation concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo S/RES/1304(2000), Adopted by the Security Council at its 4159th meeting, on 16 June 2000.

101 MONUC currently has fifteen human rights observers, five of whom are posted to the capital, Kinshasa. Human Rights Watch believes that a much larger number of MONUC human rights observers is necessary to adequately monitor the human rights situation in a country the size of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

102 U.N. Security Council resolution 1417 (2002), SC/7425, June 14, 2002. See also: "MONUC Mandate," MONUC Public Information Office, at (accessed on July 14, 2002).

103 Human Rights Watch confidential interview, July 2002.

104 "DRC: U.N. Appeals for Calm in Kisangani: Situation "Tense"," U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN), May 17, 2002.

105 See U.N. Security Council, "Eleventh Report of the Secretary-General...," Ibid.

106 Ibid.

107 Human Rights Watch interview, Toby Harward, Political Affairs Officer, MONUC-Kisangani, June 2002.

108 "DR Congo: U.N. Mission Issues Preliminary Report on Kisangani Disturbances," U.N. News Service, May 23, 2002.

109 U.N. Security Council Resolution 1417 (June 14, 2002), paragraph 4 (stating that the U.N. Security Council "looks forward to receiving the joint report and recommendations by MONUC and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the violence in Kisangani"); Statement by the President of the Security Council, June 5, 2002.

110 "Rwandan-Backed Rebels in DR Congo Want U.N. Envoy Pulled Out," Agence France Presse, May 27, 2002.

111 Ibid.

112 Human Rights Watch interview with Luc Henkinbrant, Kinshasa, June 2002.

113 Human Rights Watch interview, Kisangani. See also: "DRC: Rebels Apologise to U.N. for Break-In," IRIN, June 19, 2002; "Secretary-General Strongly Condemns Acts of Intimidation Against U.N. Mission in DR Congo," U.N. Secretary-General's office, SG/SM/8275, AFR/421, June 18, 2002.

114 "RD Congo: MONUC Communique de Presse du 18 Juin 2002," June 18, 2001.

115 United Nations Security Council, High Commissioner for Human Rights, Report on the 14-15 May Events in Kisangani-Democratic Republic of the Congo, S/2002/764.

116 Statement by the President of the Security Council, July 23, 2002.

117 See, for example, "Reaction de la Population a la Demilitarisation de la Ville de Kisangani," November 12, 2001, electronic communication on file at Human Rights Watch.

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page