In mid-May 2002 soldiers and police officers in Kisangani, the third largest city in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), mutinied against their commanding officers and the local authorities of the Congolese Rally for Democracy, Goma faction (RCD).1 The RCD depends on the military and political support of neighboring Rwanda to exercise control over some thirty to forty percent of eastern Congo. The mutineers took control of the radio station and called on the population to join them in hunting down and expelling "Rwandans," apparently meaning both citizens of Rwanda and Congolese of Rwandan origin. Mutineers and civilian crowds killed six persons who were or were thought to be Rwandan.
Loyalist RCD soldiers quickly put down the mutiny. After the arrival of reinforcements from Goma, RCD soldiers carried out indiscriminate killings of civilians, summary executions of military personnel and civilians, numerous rapes, beatings, and widespread looting.
Almost immediately after the reinforcements and their commanders arrived from Goma, RCD soldiers entered the civilian neighborhood of Mangobo, killing dozens of civilians, committing numerous rapes, and systematically looting the neighborhood. At the same time, a large number of Congolese military and police personnel suspected of involvement in the mutiny were arrested, and most were summarily executed on the nights of May 14 and May 15 at the Tshopo bridge, their bodies thrown in the river. Many of those bodies, some horribly mutilated and put in weighted-down sacks, later resurfaced. Other killings and executions took place in additional locations, including an abandoned brewery, the Bangboka airport, and the military barracks at Camp Ketele.
Human Rights Watch research was able to establish the identities of the RCD officers implicated in these abuses, which amount to war crimes. According to the witnesses we interviewed, Bernard Biamungu, commander of the Fifth Brigade; Gabriel Amisi, also known as Tango Fort, the assistant chief of staff for logistics; and Laurent Nkunda, the commander of the Seventh Brigade, were among the RCD officers who arrived from Goma, to take charge of putting down the mutiny. These officers appear to have been on the scene of many of these crimes, in a position to know of them, and in some cases asserted below, directing or participating in them. Many other Kisangani-based RCD officers also played a direct role in the abuses documented in this report.
The United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) had dozens of military observers and some one thousand troops to defend U.N. personnel in Kisangani at the time. Although the MONUC mandate authorized it to intervene "to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence," MONUC officers did not send their military observers on patrol to deter killings on the first day of RCD violence. The U.N. should review MONUC's actions during the Kisangani massacre. In particular, a U.N. inquiry should determine whether MONUC had the military means to carry out its protection 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. On the second day, MONUC officers appealed for restraint, obtained the release of two detained priests, and protected seven other civilians.
In the course of research, Human Rights Watch documented the deaths of more than eighty persons in the mutiny and subsequent repression. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions carried out an inquiry into these same events and estimated in a report presented to the U.N. Security Council by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on July 16 that RCD officers had been responsible for the deaths of more than 160 persons. Determining the final death toll will be possible only when families of victims, now fearful of authorities, have sufficient confidence to report all deaths.
In mid-July 2002 the U.N. Security Council demanded that the RCD bring perpetrators of the Kisangani massacre to justice. With the publication of this report, Human Rights Watch provides information to help make this possible by identifying the chain of command that links together those responsible for the Kisangani massacre.
Much of the information in this report is based on the testimony of one or more eyewitnesses to the crimes described. Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed these eyewitnesses privately and independently, without their knowledge of the testimony of other witnesses, and tried to verify the accuracy of their accounts with corroborating information whenever possible. For their safety, we have withheld their names and details necessary to protect their identities. Because of the severe security situation in Kisangani, Human Rights Watch was unable to include other eyewitness testimony because the identity of those witnesses could be easily ascertained, placing their lives at risk. These accounts, on file at Human Rights Watch, provide further corroboration of the interviews we did use in this report.