The Attack on Bunia
The early August violence in Bunia demonstrates three essential aspects of the conflict in Ituri. First, all parties commit abuses. In this case it was more or less simultaneously with both Hema and Lendu armed groups killing civilians of the opposing ethnicity, often in their homes. In other cases the killing has taken place in succession purportedly as retaliation for attacks. Second, the support of external actors is important. In most cases such support remains in the background, but in this case, the aid of the Ugandan army clearly assured the UPC victory. Third, as in all other cases, civilians bore and continue to bear the brunt of the casualties.
The build-up to the August violence began in June and July as Hema militia grew more and more hostile to Governor Molondo as he integrated Lendu and Ngiti militia into the APC. Lodged at Lubanga's house and protected by soldiers of the Ugandan army, they sought control of increasingly large parts of Bunia town. They skirmished with APC combatants on July 10 at a bar called TV5 and on July 25 at Camp Ndoromo, where the APC were training an estimated 1,200 Lendu and Ngiti combatants. On August 6 Hema combatants reportedly backed by Ugandan soldiers launched a major attack at Ndoromo and were repulsed only after fourteen hours of fighting, supposedly with the loss of two Ugandan soldiers. According to local sources, the UPC used anti-personnel mines, one of which wounded an APC soldier. Families of Lendu and Ngiti combatants fled to the governor's residence in Bunia seeking protection.93
On August 7 and 8 UPC militia tried to occupy some neighborhoods of Bunia and in the process deliberately killed Lendu civilians and others, such as Nande and Bira, seen as Lendu allies. Lendu militia targeted and killed dozens of Hema civilians in the Mudzi Pela neighborhood and in other predominantly Hema neighborhoods like Saio, Rwambuzi, and Simbiliabo. Both sides burned houses, displacing large numbers of civilians.94 A witness said:
On August 7 the young Hema militias chased the Bira and the Lendu in Bunia. They knew which houses to go to and whom to target. There were about 200 of them, a mix of those in uniform and in civilian dress. They killed a lot of people that day - about thirty-seven - though I think there were more. A few days later, on August 9, they were buried by the Red Cross and the chief of the area. They included men, women and children. The killing went on from 7:00 a.m. till about 1:00 p.m.95
Outside of town, at Lengabo, Lendu and Ngiti militia deliberately killed thirty-two Hema civilians who had sought refuge at the farm of Tibasima Ateenye, a Hema leader once linked with the RCD-ML but at this time resident in Kinshasa. A witness reported:
Thirty-two Hema people died there [at Tibasima's farm]. I counted them. About seven died from bullets while the rest had died from machete wounds. This attack really increased the tensions. Some of the injured came to Bunia. They had even cut off the legs of one
The militia reportedly killed two Ugandan soldiers who had been protecting the Hema at the farm and drove the others away. It is unclear whether these Ugandan soldiers sought to protect Hema from a sense of duty-in contrast to their fellows who did nothing or joined in killing Hema-or whether they had been privately hired to protect Tibasima's farm, an arrangement that Ugandan soldiers sometimes made for their own profit.97
On August 8, 2002 the Governor met with Ugandan army commanders to appeal for restraint in the town. He said that the Ugandan army was there to provide security, not to take sides. According to a witness at the meeting, one of the Ugandan army commanders threatened Governor Molondo, saying that he had been ordered by the highest military level in Kampala to neutralize him.98 At 8:00 p.m. that evening the Ugandan army attacked the governor's residence. The attack lasted for only ten minutes but was enough to cause further panic in the town. The Lendu, fearing for their lives, ran to the governor's residence for protection as killings continued in Mudzi Pela and other areas of Bunia.
On August 9, 2002 at 2:00 p.m. the Ugandan army, followed by the UPC, again attacked the governor's residence and the surrounding neighborhood, known as the sous-region, using heavy weapons including tanks. After a short battle, Governor Molondo and APC troops fled on foot towards Beni. After they left, UPC combatants continued killing Lendu, Nande, and Bira civilians near the main hospital in the Bigo neighborhood and near the central prison. A witness reported:
On August 11 I was finally able to go to the governor's residence. I saw the Ugandan army and the Hema looting the houses. In the house of a military commander called Pichu there were five bodies of women including the wife of Pichu and four others. All had been shot and his wife had a bullet in the head. At the next house I found another three bodies - one woman and two children. There were still people seeking refuge there. Further along I found the body of a small child. That really shocked me. At the vice-governor's house I saw seventeen bodies, including women and children. After seeing all this I returned to where I was staying. I was scared.99
Several mass graves have been discovered, including two near the governor's residence and others near the prison and the hospital. According to MONUC, 110 people died in the violence in and around Bunia, but local sources estimated the dead as at least 150. The victims included both Hema and Lendu civilians many of whom had been targeted only on the basis of their ethnicity. Several mass graves were subsequently discovered including one with twenty-six bodies of mostly women and children, many with bullet wounds in their backs.100 Some witness said that victims were also thrown in the Chari River.101
The Ugandan army backed the UPC attack that deliberately killed large numbers of civilians. In addition, they failed in most cases to protect civilians who were being targeted for killing in and around the town, despite having large numbers of troops available less than a mile away. Ugandan soldiers also joined UPC and others in looting homes and shops. Major David Muhoozi and Captain Eddy Muwonge of the Ugandan army disclaim responsibility for these abuses, saying this was "a Congolese matter".102
The UPC Government and the Growth of Extremism
From August 2002 to March 2003, the UPC controlled Bunia and the immediate surrounding area, including most parts of the Djugu territory just to the north. Although it claimed to control all of the former district of Ituri, it did not control Mambasa to the west and the area of Kpandruma and Rethy to the north where the Lendu had their base. It exercised only sporadic control over the Alur and Lugbara areas near the Ugandan border. During this period, the former Governor of Ituri, Jean-Pierre Lompondo Molondo appointed by Mbusa Nyamwisi of the RCD-ML, claimed to still govern the western parts of Ituri that were under the military control of the APC.
On paper the UPC government appeared representative with a number of ministers from other ethnic groups, but in practice it was controlled by the Gegere - the northern branch of the Hema ethnic group. Some representatives of other ethnic groups joined the movement and the government under duress. One such minister said,
I decided to enter the UPC for security reasons and not because I wanted to. I was desperate to protect my family. A lot of people were disappearing and I felt I had no choice. Everyday I go to work and to the movement meetings, but my heart is not in it. There are many others in a similar position."104
Other persons unwilling to join the UPC or its government fled or went into hiding when they heard they had been nominated to government posts.105
At about the time the UPC established its government, a group composed mostly of Gegere attempted to set a more clearly anti-Lendu policy for the party. The group reportedly included Adele Lotsove Mugisa, Jean Baptiste Dhetchuvi, and Richard Lonema, an influential local Hema spokesperson. According to Hema now estranged from the UPC, this group together with Lubanga-whom they may have led rather than followed--advocated eliminating the Lendu and Ngiti in order to end ethnic conflict once and for all. They reportedly proposed killing key Lendu and Ngiti leaders, especially intellectuals, and cutting economic links to Lendu communities.106
A Hema now opposed to the UPC said, "Meetings of the movement became divisive as a core group including Lotsove, Lubanga and Dhetchuvi held meetings apart in Kilendu, a language not spoken by Hema from the south. It was clear to us they had a different vision."107 Some UPC members claimed they opposed the new direction. One such person explained, "When we came to power the logic of the movement changed to eliminating the Lendu and the Ngiti. I was against this and told the leadership this."108 After protesting, the dissident believed the leaders planned to kill him and he fled for his life.
Against this backdrop of growing extremism, the UPC pressed for autonomy for Ituri. In public statements they asked, "Why should non-Iturians be managing our territory?"109 and they argued that if the national government took control of the area it would loot Ituri, as had others. Some UPC leaders talked in terms of the new division of people into "originaires" and "non-originaires".110 While it was never completely clear who were "originaires", many people understood them to be Hema and Gegere. People of other groups feared and resented this UPC claim to being the original inhabitants of the area.
Attack at Mabanga
When we returned from the fighting, the Gegere said that all those who spoke Swahili and were non-originaires should leave straight away. Then I saw a group of Gegere who had come from Iga Barriere. They were in civilian clothes, running together and were well armed with spears, machetes, chains, and guns. They were chanting, "Non-originaires slaughtered, Bira killed." Within minutes of their arrival they started to kill people. If they saw you and you were light skinned they would kill you shouting "jajabo"111. They were slashing people with their machetes on their arms and their heads. I saw them kill people. They killed Mr. Totosca and also Ramon Faraho - two people that I knew. The hacked them to death with their machetes and then burned them. 112
Massacre at Songolo
In the early hours of August 31, 2002, the UPC together with Bira attacked Songolo. A witness recounted:
The UPC and Bira attacked in three groups, about 500 of them, coming from three different directions. They had military uniforms. Most of them were UPC. Commander Bagonza ordered the troops to attack Songolo. He was there himself; I saw him. They were together with Bira in civilian clothes who had machetes and spears. In the center of Songolo there was a clash between Ngiti fighters and the UPC and Bira. They used mortars and rockets. We saw this from where we were, at the bottom of the hill. Nine Ngiti combatants were killed and more than twenty Hema/UPC.
Then the Bira combatants guided the UPC to the houses. They killed people, most with bullets, others with machetes and spears. I saw mostly old people killed. Some were attacked in their sleep, including children and women. The Bira combatants also decapitated some people with machetes. There were 140 dead, including many women and children. We asked people to come out of the bush to bury the dead. We took turns doing the burial. 114
The attack lasted about nine hours. Witnesses "felt surrounded" as the attackers entered the town, cutting off escape routes, including the small footpaths. One said:
I hid in the mountains and went back down to Songolo at about 3:00 p.m. I saw many people killed and even saw traces of blood where people had been dragged. I counted 82 bodies most of whom had been killed by bullets. We did a survey and found that 787 people were missing - we presumed they were all dead though we don't know. Some of the bodies were in the road, others in the forest. Three people were even killed by mines. Those who attacked knew the town and posted themselves on the footpaths to kill people as they were fleeing. 115
Ngiti community leaders sought help by informing MONUC in Bunia and submitting a report about the events. MONUC did report back to its Kinshasa headquarters on September 3, 2002 that UPC soldiers were seen looting in Songolo,116 but otherwise there was no action taken. Ngiti combatants accused the community leaders of letting their people down "as the reports meant nothing."117 They began planning a reprisal attack against the Hema which was carried out on September 5, 2002 in Nyakunde (see below).
Massacre at Mongbwalu
When the UPC took power in Bunia in August, they were keen to take Mongbwalu to have access to its gold mines. In October they attacked the town but were pushed back by the Lendu combatants and APC soldiers. The UPC regrouped and in late November 2002 attacked again, this time joined by some of Bemba's MLC soldiers, some Ugandans, and perhaps some Rwandans.
Bemba's MLC forces had been in the area for several weeks along with troops of Lumbala's RCD-N troops. They were trying to push east into parts of Ituri controlled by their rival Mbusa Nyamwisi's RCD-ML (see below). Their campaign was known as "effacer le tableau" (Operation Erase the Blackboard) so witnesses referred to Bemba's soldiers as the "Effaceurs." Numerous witnesses also said that Ugandans helped the UPC. One said, "The Hema and the Ugandans were always together."118 Another witness explained their tactics, saying the Ugandans led and the Hema were behind during the attack.119
In their second attack, the UPC used heavy weapons, including mortars and other explosive devices, probably made available to them through one or the other of their outside backers. They began their attack at a village called Pluto on the outskirts of Mongbwalu. A witness recounted:
The Hema of the UPC, Ugandans and the "Effacer le Tableau" [MLC] came at 11:00 on Friday. They all worked together and attacked Pluto just outside Mongbwalu. They entered directly with their guns to shoot at the population. I was at home in Pluto and I heard cries and mortars falling and I knew the war had started. I fled from Pluto and ran to Mongbwalu. I saw that it was soldiers attacking us as they had camouflage uniforms and some had black berets. They all had guns and they were everywhere.
As I was running I saw people being hit by bullets. Women and children were falling. Some people did not run and hid in their houses in Pluto. I heard afterwards that these people were all slaughtered. The assailants continued to kill people for five days in Pluto. People who escaped from Pluto told me this, although not many managed to find their way out.
They then attacked Mongbwalu as well and I was forced to flee again to Saio, about three miles from Mongbwalu. The attackers were looking for Lendu, Ngiti, and Nande people. The Hema combatants knew us so they could easily find who we were. Other people were killed as well though. Not much later they also came to attack us in Saio. I had to flee again. They killed many people.120
Another witness told what happened in Mongbwalu itself:
The Hema and the "Effaceurs" [MLC] came into town and started killing people. We hid in our house. I opened the window and saw what happened from there. A group of more than ten with spears, guns and machetes killed two men in Cité Suni, in the center of Mongbwalu. I saw them pull the two men from their house and kill them. They took Kasore, a Lendu man in his thirties, from his family and attacked him with knives and hammers. They killed him and his son (aged about 20) with knives. They cut his son's throat and tore open his chest. They cut the tendons on his heels, smashed his head and took out his intestines. The father was slaughtered and burnt.
We fled to Saio. On the way, we saw other bodies. ... They were shooting anyone, just shooting. Anyone caught by the bullets died. Most of the people were killed by bullets. There were also many people killed at the airport, with machetes and guns. There were even more bodies there, more than thirty. 121
A gold digger who worked in Mongbwalu said:
There were two groups of Hema militia: one with firearms, the other with machetes, spears, and mukuki (a sharp knife attached to a piece of wood which is thrown). The second group was killing civilians who hadn't fled. The victims were Lendu and Jajabo. The Hema militia didn't have any pity for people. They slashed them with machetes and killed them. 122
Many civilians fled with the Lendu combatants to Saio, a few kilometers away. When the UPC, MLC, and Ugandan assailants followed them there after taking Mongbwalu, some civilians ran into the forests while others tried to hide in Saio, including at a church called "Mungu Samaki." When UPC combatants found the people in the church, they slaughtered them.123
The UPC combatants captured other civilians and imprisoned them at a military camp, where they later killed them. A man who was imprisoned there told Human Rights Watch researchers:
I was taken to the prison and could see out the window of my cell. The Hema militia were killing people from particular groups. They were especially looking for Lendu. They would pick out prisoners to kill. They took them one by one to question them, then they released them or killed them. They shot people in front of other prisoners. They tied their arms behind their backs with wires. They slashed their heads with knives. They made them sit down and then they shot them. They also shot any who tried to escape. Sometimes they took people outside and they never came back. They killed about twenty people, including some boys I knew from my neighborhood. I even saw them kill two Pygmies - a man and a woman. Another woman came to the prison to look for her son. They asked her why she had come there and then they killed her. They beat us with whips and ropes. They questioned me too. They asked me where the Lendu and the APC had fled to. I didn't say anything. I managed to escape the following day. I saw more than ten bodies outside the prison. The Hema militia were everywhere in Mongbwalu and I hid so they wouldn't see me. I saw holes, like graves on the edge of town. They were freshly dug and covered with earth. I presumed there were people inside.124
Based on witness statements, local human rights organizations estimate that at least 200 people were killed in and around Mongbwalu, but the death toll could be much higher. The victims include Freddy Bosama, Lokana Kpakani, and two teachers called Budhe and Lossa.125 A witness related:
Six days later I returned as I knew some Hema and I wanted to collect my things. There were only combatants in Mongbwalu and they had looted everywhere. I saw that many Hema had returned to move into Lendu houses. I counted five bodies of civilians including women and children. I had come into Mongbwalu from the forest with another girl who was on her way to Saio. I saw her again later and she told me that there were many bodies along the side of the road. Many houses had also been burnt. The soldiers took many young men that day to bury the bodies of the people they had killed. 126
Abbé Boniface Bwanalonga, the Ngiti priest of Mongbwalu parish, disappeared during the November attack. There are reports that the UPC combatants detained him along with two nuns. The nuns were released and later returned to bring food to the abbé, but the UPC combatants refused them permission to see him and told them to go away and not come back again. Abbé Bwanalonga has not been seen since.127
The co-operation between Bemba's MLC and Lubanga's UPC was new. The UPC may have been exploring the possibility of a real alliance with the MLC while it seems that the MLC was interested in getting access to Mongbwalu's gold. A witness who returned to Mongbwalu after the attacks said:
At that time it was clear the UPC were in charge. Commander Bosco had been at the head of the attack but he didn't stay long after it was over. The troops of the MLC were led by the UPC. They all spoke Lingala. I spoke to a person I knew from this group. He told me that the UPC from Aru had asked them to come and attack Mongbwalu. They had been promised gold if they helped. As soon as they had captured Mongbwalu they set up a system of collecting taxes and gold from people who were mining.128
Soon after the attack, the UPC attempted to start up the gold operations. This required labor and the most experienced diggers were Lendu and "non-originaires". The UPC sent out messengers to encourage the population to return. According to a witness, " The UPC commander said in a meeting that the UPC was for everyone. He asked the population to return, especially the Lendu, but they refused."129 When a few people returned, the UPC tried to use them to persuade others to come also. A witness said:
Gbala also came back and the Hema asked him to go into the forest and call for the others to return. He did go into the forest and told the people the truth, that their homes had been looted. Some people refused to return but others did. When Gbala returned on 16 December 2002 he was arrested and accused of being against the UPC as he had denounced the looting. He was taken to prison and then killed.130
Because most Lendu refused to return, UPC troops forced others to begin mining. A witness said:
Many people fled but those who stayed in Mongbwalu were made to work for the Hema militia digging gold. There were three shifts: those who worked in the morning, those who worked in the afternoon, and those who worked at night. They were not paid. It was hard labor. They had to dig under big stones without machines. They had only hand tools like pick-axes. They were given bananas and beans to eat and they were beaten. Some tried to run away by pretending to go to the toilet. The Hema militia were keeping watch over the workers. As the Lendu had fled, all the other groups were made to dig. I saw them working there on the first day. The Ugandans were also there to ensure security. If they hadn't been there, it would have been terrible. The quarry belonged to Mr. Baou. Before, everyone used to dig gold, but the Lendu were considered the experts. 131
In this case Ugandan soldiers present to protect the gold mining operations apparently also limited militia abuses of persons forced to work there.
Local witnesses report that some Rwandans were present during the Mongbwalu attack, claiming they recognized them by their language, their accents, and their appearance. According to one person, Lendu combatants captured several Rwandans along with Ugandans in the fighting. He said, "They found their ID cards which showed they were Ugandan and Rwandans. I saw them bringing Rwandans into Saio. The Lendu called out to us to come and see the Rwandans they had captured."132
With the tension between Uganda and Rwanda, it is unlikely that regular soldiers of their armies would have cooperated in military operations, but it is possible that dissidents or rebels from one force could have joined with regular forces from the other. Such was the report in one journal that specializes in mining affairs. The Rwandans, reportedly already supplying training and arms to the UPC, would have been prompted in part by a desire to exploit local resources in gold. Lubanga reportedly promised to ship the gold out through Kigali rather than through Kampala.133
Establishing the identity of all the perpetrators of abuses at Mongbwalu will require further investigation. What is already known is that civilians suffered enormously from their exactions.
In addition to the cases documented above, Human Rights Watch researchers collected information on deliberate killings of civilians by UPC combatants at Bolombo in late August or early September 2002 and at Zungulouka in October 2002.
UPC Abuses of Lendu and Others Seen as Political Opponents
Commanders Bagonza, Kisembo Bahemuka (UPC Chief of Staff), and Rafiki Saba Aimable (UPC Chief of Security Services) reportedly directed the campaign. Two prison areas in Bunia became notorious as places of execution and torture. These included Bureau Deux134, an old warehouse on one of the main streets in Bunia and the house of Commander Bagonza himself just off the main street in the center of town. Human Rights Watch researchers collected information about more than 100 people victimized by this campaign, including the cases described below.
On September 28, 2002, Adriko Johnson, the thirty-year-old assistant mayor of Bunia and a leading member of the UPC, disappeared after a party meeting. A number of Lendu testified that Mr. Johnson had given them refuge at his house when UPC troops were searching for Lendu in August.135 Other witnesses testified that Johnson had wanted to end the targeting of the Lendu and Ngiti, arguing that the movement could not be a based on one ethnic group. According to reports, he was taken to the house of Commander Kisembo, the UPC Chief of Staff, the night he disappeared. Here he was interrogated and then executed a few days later. No body has ever been found. Friends and family members called on the UPC to launch an investigation. One told Human Rights Watch researchers, "When we inquired about where he was the UPC wouldn't say. They said they would do some research but they didn't. The UPC security services say it is a very complicated case but until today we know nothing. We even spoke to the Ugandans and President Lubanga but they also did nothing. We have just received silence." 136
Chief Bulamuzi Dieudonné, a forty-year-old traditional chief from Nyakunde, was killed in Bunia on September 5, 2002. He had been asked to join the UPC but had refused. He was allegedly tortured in Bureau Deux and was then released. That same evening, six UPC soldiers came and shot him dead about 100 meters from his house.137
A young student, accused of being a Lendu combatant, was taken by the UPC militia to an underground prison in the compound of the governor's residence in Bunia where he spent at least four days with some corpses. He was then taken to the prison of Commander Bagonza where he was tortured so severely that he still bears scars all over his body. The torturers put a stone in his mouth and stamped on his head. He shouted and fainted. They woke him up by whipping him and throwing water on him. Nearby Ugandan soldiers heard him shouting and intervened to stop the abuse. He later escaped.138
Persons suspected of being in contact with the DRC government or with RCD-ML authorities in Beni were considered enemies and often subjected to arbitrary arrest, torture, and sometimes execution:
On December 9, 2002 I was talking with my family in Aru when UPC soldiers entered the compound. [Commanders ]. . . ordered the soldiers to shoot anyone who tried to flee. They forced us to strip, tied us up, and made us lie face down. Then they hit us with large sticks all over our legs, buttocks, and backs. One of the commanders accused us of communicating with Kinshasa, Beni, the Lendu and Aru to bring the war to Bunia, but I was just a student. He said they were trying to find fuel to burn me. I prayed and they laughed at me saying God couldn't save me. I was then taken to the house of one of the commanders and put into a large hole in the ground. They beat us till we cried. There were other prisoners in the hole who were in a terrible state. We were 20 in total. There were two Lendu men who looked as if they had been really badly beaten: Ngdjole and Lobo, who had a broken arm, and a Nande man called Kasiko. The night of December 12 the soldiers came with guns and called these three men. All day long they had been taunting them, asking them how they wanted to die. We shouted at them saying what they were doing was illegal. But they took the men anyway. We heard them cry and ten minutes later the soldiers came back. I was told the three men had been killed. It wasn't a normal place; it was a place of execution.139
In this case and those detailed below, witnesses identified their torturers by name to Human Rights Watch researchers.
On November 11, 2002, UPC authorities arrested the most senior judge in Ituri, Jacques Kabasele, accusing him of having contacts with their enemies. The judge related:
I was at home when two people from the DGM [Department of Internal Security] together with a soldier told me that I had been summoned by their boss. They handed me a "bulletin des services" which said that I was required for an investigation. They arrested me and took me to one of the prison cells at the DGM. For two days I waited. There was no formal charge placed against me nor was I allowed access to a lawyer. On November 13 at 7:00 p.m. a team came to interrogate me including officials from the DGM. They asked me many questions about whether I had been in contact with Beni, Kinshasa, or the outside world. They accused me of being in contact with Kabila, Mbusa Nyamwisi, and former Governor Molondo but I had not. They told me the order for my arrest had come from President Lubanga and then they left. I was not physically threatened and I believe they were more careful than usual as they were aware of my knowledge of the law.
They kept me in prison for eighteen days and then released me. No formal charge was laid against me. I requested an official document to explain my absence from work and also I wanted my record cleared but I received no document. The UPC President Lubanga refused to meet with me.
I cannot move around freely and I often do not sleep in my own house. People here are afraid. The UPC does whatever they like and have no respect for the law.140
Not only senior officials but also ordinary workers were accused of betraying the UPC. Bicycle carriers, known locally as Kumba Kumba141, were suspected of carrying messages from Beni or Mongbwalu to Bunia. On August 23, 2002, UPC authorities went to a warehouse where the bicycle carriers usually picked up their goods. They arrested eleven men including Mahamba Kisala, Tavugha Nzuva, Kalandero Kambale and Sivyalo Ndungo. A witness said:
The UPC asked the carriers for their ID cards. Most of them have two ID cards in order to facilitate their work - one where they are from and one to where they are going. This is quite common. But the UPC used this as an excuse to arrest them and they also asked them for money. They took them to Bureau Deux and they have not been seen since.
Some days later bodies were thrown into the Chari River in Bunia. I don't know how many bodies there were but someone I know. . . recognized the bodies as those of the Kumba Kumba who had been arrested earlier. There is now no more transportation on bicycles as people are too scared.142
A similar campaign was carried out in areas in northern Ituri such as Mahagi and Aru where UPC troops threatened, tortured, and killed many business people involved in trade with the Lendu. Two Alur businessmen said:
On November 23, 2002 we were arrested on the road in Aru by two UPC Commanders. They took us to their headquarters and then four soldiers beat us with sticks for over an hour on our backs, legs and buttocks. They accused us of being pro-Lendu and against the UPC. After beating us they put us in a container143 that they used as a prison. There were another four people besides us held prisoner there. We were kept for eleven days. Our wives had to pay the UPC $4 per meal to feed us. After pressure from others, we were released and then we fled. There are many others like us here.144
Concerned about their abuses becoming known, UPC authorities also targeted those who had talked to MONUC and international journalists. A Lendu student suspected of contacts with MONUC said:
The UPC soldiers arrested me on October 29, 2002 and took me to the home of one of the commanders. I saw him on the veranda. When we got there, they threw me to their colleagues. They kicked me and hit me with the butts of their guns. They undressed me. They dragged me to a shallow well and threw me in it. They hit me with stones. I put my arms over my head. They asked me what I was doing at MONUC but they didn't let me answer. There were seven of us in total in a space of two square meters. Other prisoners said that the day before, soldiers had shot dead a Lendu civilian prisoner. The next morning, the soldiers took me to the commander who interrogated me about my contacts with MONUC. I told him. He said: "if you continue lying, you will end up dead like the others." He questioned me for about fifteen minutes.... When I went to fetch the water, they beat me with sticks, like a goat. Then they put me in the well again. I was released only because MONUC intervened.145
The MONUC team in Bunia knew of some of these cases of arbitrary execution, arrest, and torture and reported some twenty of them, involving scores of people, to MONUC headquarters in Kinshasa in September and October 2002. These reports included one on September 9 about thirty-three local businessmen arrested by the UPC; another on September 12 about the slaughter outside Bunia of ten men and six women, whose bodies were then thrown in the river; and yet another on September 14 about a businessman arrested by the UPC and later found dead in Bunia town.146 Despite these reports, no human rights staff from MONUC headquarters came to investigate the matter until January 2003 and no public denunciations were made concerning these serious abuses. In several cases, however, MONUC staff intervened at the time to stop abuses and to arrange the release of persons arbitrarily arrested.147
Honoré Musoko, a lawyer and president of Justice Plus, a human rights organization based in Bunia, sought to defend several victims abused by UPC authorities.148 He then found himself accused of working with the former Governor Molondo and of being an enemy of the UPC. Maitre Honore fled the region in November 2002 but UPC authorities raided his organization, Justice Plus, on February 5, 2003 after he gave an interview on international radio about human rights in Ituri. Finding the Justice Plus office empty, the UPC authorities then went on to the office of Bunia Business Communications, which is owned by Maitre Honoré. There they arrested two workers and seized a satellite phone and computer equipment. The two workers were later released without charge but fearing similar treatment, other members of Justice Plus went into hiding.149
When Human Rights Watch researchers raised this case with UPC President Lubanga and UPC Foreign Minister Jean Baptiste Dhetchuvi, they responded that the equipment had been seized because it was being used for "negative propaganda." They had taken the equipment, they said, to "make them think and calm them down," adding that human rights activists were "creating dangers for themselves."150 Within a day of this meeting, the equipment of Justice Plus was returned.
A foreign journalist, Gabriel Khan, drew the ire of UPC leaders when he reported in early 2003 on international television about the plight of more than 100 Lendu who had taken refuge in an abandoned house in Bunia. In an interview with Human Rights Watch, Lubanga labeled Khan an unrepentant "criminal" and blamed him for "having turned Ituri into an explosive area." He accused him of having "given false information to the public which is worse than using firearms or machetes."151 UPC authorities particularly resented Khan's having broadcast a statement by a Lendu man who said he did not want Ugandan soldiers to leave because he feared the Hema would kill him if they did.
As of this writing, it appears that UPC authorities have investigated none of these abuses nor have they held anyone accountable for them. Many of those involved in the human rights abuses continue to hold senior positions in the UPC.
Massacres and Other Abuses by the APC and by Lendu and Ngiti Armed Groups
During the attack, Commander Faustin reportedly told the hospital staff that Ngiti combatants wanted to attack the hospital, one of the largest medical facilities and training centers in eastern DRC and one staffed by several expatriate doctors. They saw the attack as a way of attracting international attention to their cause. He claimed that he personally opposed this plan. In accord with RCD-ML leader Nyamwisi, he wanted to focus the attack on defeating UPC soldiers and capturing Nyakunde as a prelude to retaking Bunia. Commander Faustin said that he and the Ngiti had finally agreed to attack the UPC camp and kill the Hema found there and then to loot the commercial center, but to leave the hospital untouched.153
If there were such an agreement, some Ngiti combatants showed immediately that they would not observe it. A witness related:
I saw a column of Ngiti coming down the mountain. As the groups entered town they went into different directions in quite an organized way. One group went to the left and another to the right to surround the airstrip. A few moments later we heard shots from three different directions like a signal. Then a second group came down the road towards the center of town. I heard the commander shout "Do not touch the hospital". Then a third group appeared a few moments later. Their commander also shouted at them not to touch the hospital but they disobeyed him straight away and entered the hospital grounds where they started to kill people. I witnessed their killing a Bira woman whom they left to die at the crossroads. I saw another woman shot by arrows. After the third group, came another group. The arrival of these four groups, in what seemed like waves, took less than one hour. There was a battle near the UPC camp which lasted for a few hours, though it was only the first group that carried out this battle. All the others entered the hospital grounds and started to kill people.154
The APC and Ngiti combatants destroyed the UPC camp in the first hours of the attack. But they continued the operation, switching to a systematic search for Hema, Bira and Gegere civilians. According to witnesses the Ngiti combatants called it "Operation Polio", implying a house-to-house search similar to a vaccination campaign. They continued the killing for at least ten days.
The Ngiti militia, wearing civilian clothes and fetishes, were armed mostly with traditional weapons such as machetes, spears, knives and axes. A smaller number carried firearms. A woman said:
I was in the market selling fruit and vegetables. We saw people coming from the hills, shouting. We didn't know what was happening. They came to the hospital and killed anyone they could find. They wanted to kill my mother. I shouted that my mother was not a Hema. They killed two women, Marie-Louise and Françoise, aged between twenty and twenty-five, both Bira, and two children, including my own eight-month-old girl. Seven Ngiti combatants slaughtered them in front of me. The other child was a one-year-old boy.155
A man who had been at the hospital said:
Through the window of one of the hospital rooms I saw them break through the fence. There were many of them and they broke into the building that I was in and started to kill people. They would cut their throats and take the hearts or bits from the throat. Sometimes they would cut the meat off the people's thighbones and put this into their bags. They asked people what group they were from as they were looking for Hema, Bira and Gegere. That first day I saw them kill sixteen people. 156
Some assailants knew their intended victims and searched for them, calling out their names.
When it began I was in the hospital and heard cries. People were running everywhere. I heard them call people's names. One of them came running into my room terrified and I hid the person under the sewing machine and covered her with blankets.157
One of those targeted related:
I hid in the ceiling of the intensive care ward with some others, but the attackers tried to get in. They used big stones to force the door and then started to kill. In the male surgery ward, they killed twelve people, all of them Hema patients. They just threw their bodies in the latrine.158
The assailants forced people of other ethnic groups and hospital staff to help them find the victims. Another targeted person said:
I hid in the ceiling of the Operating Room with Pastor Solomon Iserve, his family and others. We spent four days there coming down just to get water and then going back up. It was very hot and there was no food. There were fourteen of us there - some were staff, some were students, some were women. On Tuesday [ September 10, 2002], the APC and Ngiti went to see the doctor and told him that if he didn't give up the Hema hiding there, they would kill him. The doctor pleaded with them but they insisted. He was forced to open the operating room where we were hiding. We had to climb down. They wrote down our names and the administrator handed over the list. The fourteen of us included Hema, Gegere, Lendu, and Alur. They released two women, one Alur and one Lendu. They kept the Hema and the Gegere. The soldiers said we should keep calm and they would give us food, but if we ran away, there would be problems for the doctor. They gave us lots of food but we couldn't eat much.
They came back a few hours later to get us. They tied us to each other with ropes around our wrists, except Pastor Solomon who had his arms tied behind his back and then was tied to the others. . . . They searched all the hospital and took out lots of people who had been hiding, making us all sit in the corridor. The APC and Ngiti combatants were guarding us and beating us. They made us put our hands on our heads. They said if we put our hands down, they would beat us. They searched every room. They beat us and asked us our ethnic groups. They said: "if you tell us the truth, it may save you. If you lie, you will die." We didn't know what to say. They asked me and I said Hema. They said: "You're telling the truth". The combatants said they would kill us. They took my shirt and watch. They hit me with flashlights and punched me and kicked me. I said nothing.
At about 10:00 p.m., they told us to line up. We walked with Ngiti combatants on one side and APC on the other, not knowing where we were going. Together there were more than seventy of us, including some women who had just given birth and patients on intravenous drips. . . . They made us go into a house in the nurses' compound. We spent one night there. It was very small and crowded. We just prayed. The soldiers and the Ngiti combatants were standing guard outside and coming in and checking. They beat us.
A member of the hospital staff related how they tried to appeal to the Ngiti commander. He said:
We went to Colonel Khandro to ask if we could see the people who had been taken from the hospital the night before. He allowed us to talk with them through a small window in the side of the building they were using as a prison. We managed to speak with Pastor Solomon who told us that there were about seventy of them in the building and that many were tied. He said he was there with his family - his wife and young baby. We could see some people sitting and others standing. It was very crowded. He asked for water for everyone as they had had nothing to drink since they had been taken the night before. We returned to Colonel Khandro to ask if we could have permission to bring the people water. He refused and said it was none of our business. We felt completely defeated and made the decision that we should do everything possible to leave Nyakunde. There was no hope anymore.160
After days of negotiations the remaining hospital staff was eventually allowed to leave late on September 12. With an escort of eight APC soldiers and carrying a few belongings, a small amount of equipment, and medicines, a few hundred of the medical staff made a ten-day journey on foot southwards towards Oicha. They left behind a destroyed hospital, hundreds dead, and some of their friends and colleagues held prisoners. "As we walked out, the Ngiti combatants carefully looked over the whole group still searching for the enemy," said one person who made the trek. "On the road we saw the body of a man whose throat had just been slit. It was a sad reminder of what could happen to us. We were all so quiet and sad." 161
The Ngiti combatants and the APC interrogated the remaining prisoners and released those who were not Hema, Bira, or Gegere. A few others managed to escape. The remaining prisoners were separated into groups according to their strength. A witness recounted:
In the morning at 6.40 a.m., they came and untied the ropes of the women as we had slept tied up. They separated the stronger women and took us away, about sixty of us. A similar number of about sixty men and weaker women, including the Pastor Solomon's wife, stayed behind. They gave us loads to carry of the things they had looted. I was made to carry roofing. They said: "we're going to take these to our village, Singo." We carried them many kilometers uphill, beyond the river Talolo. On the hill, there was a plain and we saw a troop of fighters. They made us go there.
When we got to Singo [twelve miles away] I heard that an earlier group had already arrived there and been killed. We were the second group. They put us in a house like a prison. It was very crowded and suffocating. Children were crying. We couldn't breathe or even sit down.
On Saturday [September 14, 2002] the third group of prisoners arrived. These were the men, including Pastor Solomon. He was exhausted from carrying ammunition and hadn't eaten. He had collapsed along the way. The Ngiti said he was a politician and should be killed. Some of the others disagreed and said they should wait for Colonel Khandro to arrive before killing him. They went back to get the Pastor who had fallen and brought him back. I saw him. He was just wearing a pair of brown shorts. They carried him and leaned him against another man. Then they "tried" him. They accused him of calling Hema militia from Bunia to kill Lendu and of playing politics against the Ngiti. He denied talking with Hema militia. They hit him. He denied being involved in politics. Then they "tried" other people. Each of these trials lasted about ten minutes but the Pastor was the only one accused of being involved in politics. The others were just told that they were causing problems because they were Bira or Hema. Then they took them away to two other prisons.
The next morning, an Ngiti combatant announced that the pastor was dead. He said, "The pastor has died before his time." Someone else told me that he had been killed because of his involvement in politics. His body was cut up and the pieces thrown into the latrine.
At about 5:00 p.m. on Sunday [September 15, 2002] Colonel Khandro arrived. He was angry because we were all still being held as prisoners. He said all the people in the prisons should be killed.162 One of the prisoners was a Rwandan Hutu girl, Kasima, aged about eighteen. Khandro was very cross. He said: "Why are you still holding the hostages?" He whipped the guards, and then killed Kasima himself with a double-edged knife. I saw him kill her. I ran away.
At about 6 p.m. that evening, Khandro gave the order to kill those remaining in the prison. The people in the second and third groups were taken into the bush and killed there. I think there were about sixty people in each group. I saw as the Ngiti combatants came back with their knives and spears covered in blood and with the clothes of the prisoners. They killed them quickly. I was hiding and was very scared.163
By the second day, the APC and Ngiti combatants had set up roadblocks to ensure that no Hema, Gegere, or Bira escaped from Nyakunde. Witnesses said:
We were stopped by the APC and Ngiti just outside Nyakunde. They asked us our ethnic group and asked for our identity cards. They separated people into groups: those from Kivu on one side and the Hema and Bira on the other. The Bira pretended they were from other groups. Some Bira said they didn't have a card. The APC told us that if we were hiding Bira or Hema, they would kill us. The APC were manning the roadblocks while the Ngiti were looting. They said if they found any Hema, they would kill them.164
During these days of killing APC commander Hilaire from the 13th battalion was sent from Komanda to assess the situation at Nyakunde. He told Human Rights Watch researchers that he saw no civilian bodies during his visit but only the bodies of UPC combatants. He did not stay long and escorted the medical staff out of Nyakunde, leaving behind many other civilians who could have been saved. 165
Both commander Hilaire and commander Faustin apparently reported the events to the APC chief of staff. RCD-ML President Nyamwisi himself admitted knowing of the Nyakunde massacre. He told Human Rights Watch researchers, "I know about the events but we didn't give orders for this to happen," he said.166 The APC troops "were outnumbered and taken hostage by the Ngiti," he continued and added that he had "no control over them at the time of the events in Nyakunde."167 According to witnesses, some APC troops did on occasion try to stop the killings, but were unable to restrain the Ngiti combatants.
Assuming the RCD-ML disapproved of the Nyakunde massacre, it is remarkable that it has launched no investigation into the conduct of APC troops and their allies, far less made any arrests for participation in the massacre. Commander Faustin is currently in jail in Beni but he is charged with letting soldiers under his command desert the APC, not with any actions he might have committed in Nyakunde.168 Colonel Khandro was reportedly killed just days after the massacre by an individual in his own ranks. One of his deputies, Commander Germain who had also participated in the massacre, took control and is currently a key commander in the newly formed FRPI political armed group with links to the RCD-ML and the DRC government.169 He was in charge of significant elements of the Ngiti and Lendu fighters who fought in Bunia in May 2003; a battle that resulted in the deaths of more than 400 civilians.
MONUC, with its severely limited resources and mandate was in no position to avert this massacre or to halt it once it had begun. In July a high-level delegation from the CME hospital warned MONUC that the risk of violence was high and that the hospital was threatened. The MONUC team sent a brief report back to headquarters in Kinshasa, but did nothing more. At the hospital, the staff despaired, with one saying, "The Congolese are dying but the UN says nothing."170
Information on the kind and extent of the massacre was available at the beginning of the second day when expatriate staff were evacuated. A subsequent e-mail message courageously sent on September 7 from Nyakunde entitled "Nyakunde - Fire and Blood"171 also alerted many to the scale and ethnic nature of the killings. The e-mail was addressed to a number of church organizations who reportedly passed it on to others, including the MONUC delegation in Bunia, but the UN force did not come to assist the victims.172
The MONUC Bunia team reported back to Kinshasa headquarters on September 19, two weeks after the massacre, that more than 150 people had been killed in Nyakunde,173 an astonishing underestimate of the death toll. While it may have been difficult at first to confirm information about the massacre, MONUC has not to our knowledge conducted any later investigations into this massacre.
Lendu and Ngiti Summary Executions Tolerated by RCD-ML Authorities
A witness to the killing of a Hema woman in another incident said:
One day in October they arrested a woman who was accused of being a witch. But she was Hema and that was the real reason. There were about ten Lendu combatants with machetes and knives. They took her from her house, stripped her and then cut her all over - they cut off her arms and then cut her genitals. Then they killed her near the central market place and burned her body. About fifteen of us witnessed this. The authorities eventually intervened and the APC Commander Papy stopped it. They tried to get the Lendu notables to calm the situation down but they didn't arrest anyone. 175
In this case, the soldiers attached to the RCD-ML were ready to prevent further such crimes-at least in the immediate future-but were also ready to tolerate impunity for the crime just committed.
In Mongbwalu APC Commander Kongolo publicly tried one of his soldiers, Pierre Ukila Wadhum, accused of killing a popular Lendu combatant. After considerable threats, Wadhum confessed to the crime, but his guilt was not otherwise established. Kongolo proposed arresting Wadhum and sending him to Beni, but the Lendu combatants refused and demanded that he be handed over to them to be killed, Kongolo gave in to their demand. A witness to the October 2, 2002 mob killing said:
Kongolo failed in his negotiations, as did others, and they finally said to the Lendu, "If this is what you have judged, then take him." They took him to the central area of Mongbwalu and called everyone to come and see. Pierre [Wadhum] was tied up and completely nude. They made him sit on the ground and then a Lendu fighter sat on a chair behind him, holding the man's head between his legs. He cut the soldier's throat with quick cut of his knife. Another Lendu fighter came with a big machete and cut open his chest and took out his heart. They gave the heart to their Chief - Maitre Kiza - who took the heart and washed it in a bowl of water they had prepared. He then placed the heart on the fire. He put a little bit of salt and oil on the heart and then roasted it. They had two large bowls of cassava ready near the fire. As the heart cooked, the other Lendu combatants took the remainder of the body and placed it on hot wood and then placed other hot pieces of wood on the top so the body was roasting as well. The Chief and his entourage then ate the heart with the cassava while the rest of the Lendu fighters ate the body. They even offered the crowd some of the meat. The APC soldiers at first watched but then went away as they saw their comrade being eaten. Whatever wasn't eaten was then burned. This whole ceremony took over two hours.
There were many of us who witnessed this. They told us not to take any pictures and if anyone did there would be trouble.176
Two days later Maitre Kiza and Kung Fu, another Lendu fighter, were sent to Beni where they were reportedly judged by military officials. They returned to Mongbwalu a few days later. They called another meeting at the same place and told the population there would be no more such executions. Maitre Kiza became a key figure in the Lendu political armed group, the FNI, who have links with the RCD-ML.177 He was reportedly killed in fighting in Ituri in early June 2003.
As with the Nyakunde case, RCD-ML authorities appeared willing to let serious human rights abuses, mob justice and cannibalism go uninvestigated and unpunished, but sought to deter further cases of such crimes.
Abuses by the MLC and RCD-N
Summary Executions and Looting at Mambasa
In early October, the MLC and RCD-N launched their attacks near the town of Mambasa and then attempted to move further south towards the RCD-ML capital of Beni in the "effacer le tableau" [Wipe the Slate] campaign which would eventually end with the ceasefire signed in Gbadolite on December 31, 2002. In the area of Mongbwalu, UPC troops attacked jointly with the MLC forces, as described above, and the UPC was rumored to be seeking an alliance with the MLC.179
When the MLC and RCD-N troops arrived in Mambasa on October 12, 2002, most residents fled to the forest. The troops sought out residents in the bush, trying to identify at least some of them by ethnic group. A witness said:
We had fled there but they found us. They asked us our names. If they sounded like Nande names, they took people away. I was captured along with my older brother. They tied our arms behind our backs with rope and took us to the Mambasa cemetery. . . .They made us lie on the ground. They said: "You're Nande and we're against Nande. Therefore you should be eliminated." There were twenty-five soldiers who took us there. They were well-armed with guns. They said they were going to kill us. We were lucky because after about ten minutes, some APC soldiers appeared, and the MLC soldiers fled. We ran away, still with our arms tied.180
Bemba's MLC and RCD-N troops also killed four people because of their supposed political loyalties. One witness said:
Days after they came into Mambasa they took my brother-in-law from the house. They had APC uniforms and claimed to be his friends, but they were really the Effacer. They asked him and a group of eight others how they viewed the Effacer. The people responded that they were very bad and they had looted everything from the population. The effaceurs then took four of the nine people and killed them, including the chef de quartier of central Mambasa. They buried them behind the St Anouarite Church in the center of town. The others were allowed to go.181
Another witness who saw the corpses said that their arms and ears had been cut off. Of the four victims, he had known two, Daniel Kahindo and Francois.182
The troops reportedly shot Gerard of Mandima because he refused to tell them where to find the driver of his truck, which they wanted to steal. 183
Local Red Cross officials report that in the district of Mambasa, including the town and surrounding areas of Teturi, Lwemba, and Byakato, some 185 victims of violence were buried from the violence between October and December 2002.184 It is unclear how many of those were killed by MLC combatants and how many died in other ways.
MLC and RCD-N soldiers, many of them drunk or drugged, systematically looted the town. Some were bare-chested, others had uniforms or headbands with US. flags. One soldier told the residents of a house he had entered, "Don't resist because for four days we can do whatever we want. That is the agreement."185 They forced residents to transport the loot to their camp.186 Colonel Freddy Ngalimo who commanded the operation for the MLC explained the looting to community leaders as normal. "Even the Palestinians do it," he reportedly said.187 To quiet community protest, the troops made a pretence of returning the loot, but in fact gave back only a few of the less valuable items.
The Kinshasa government and its ally, the RCD-ML, were outraged at Bemba's attempts to muscle into new territory and may have prompted publicity about abuses by MLC forces. Bemba reacted to the substantial national and international criticism by having MLC Lieutenant-Colonel Freddy Ngalimo and twenty-six others tried for "extortion, rape, assassination, looting and disobeying orders."188 Under Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions, the MLC had legal authority to prosecute and punish its own soldiers by a regularly constituted court, but the trials failed to meet internationally recognized standards for fairness. The judges were neither independent nor impartial and the prosecution had done no real investigation nor offered serious examination of the charges. The trial, held in February 2003, appeared to have been a public relations exercise with the aim of shielding Bemba and his main officers from more serious prosecutions. It resulted in a number of convictions, with the lower ranking officers sentenced to harsher punishments than their commanders. The most serious sentence of life imprisonment went to Corporal Katembo Kombi and Lt. Jose Zima for murder. Colonel Freddy Ngalimo, who had been in charge of the military operation with direct control over events, was found guilty only of permitting insubordination by troops under his control, and was sentenced to three years imprisonment. Sixteen combatants received sentences ranging from six months to three years for crimes of desertion, disobedience, or rape, and seven others received only "internal sanctions" for indiscipline. For actions that might have amounted to crimes against humanity, these trials made a mockery of justice.
Assassination of Governor Joseph Enecko
The governor delayed his departure to Bunia in order to resolve some matters in Aru and Mahagi, an action which may have increased UPC concerns about his attitude. He talked openly of his mission for peace and met with various groups in the north of Ituri, including Roger Lumbala of the RCD-N, Lendu leaders in Kpandruma, and some local Hema leaders in Fataki. He visited the Lendu before the Hema prompting rumors that he was pro-Lendu. The UPC sent a delegation headed by Kisembo Bahemuka, the Chief of Staff of the UPC army, to oblige Governor Enecko to come to Bunia.
Before leaving for Bunia Governor Enecko set out on November 21 for Mahagi to install a new territorial administrator in his post. Just before he left, the UPC commander in Aru changed the governor's bodyguards and driver. En route, near Simbi, the local people stopped the governor's car and informed him that APC troops and Lendu militia had been fighting the UPC on the road ahead earlier in the day. Night was falling but the Governor was determined to go on. A local source reported:
Around five miles from Mahagi the delegation saw three bodies on the road. The driver stopped, saying they should go back, but the Governor insisted they should go on. Then a person stepped out into the road wearing a military jacket. The bodyguards tensed and wanted to shoot, but the Governor restrained them. They shouted that they were with the Governor. The soldier responded, "Which governor - is it the one killing us here?" and then gave the order to shoot. Within minutes all the passengers were killed except two bodyguards who were in the back of the vehicle and managed to escape. Governor Enecko, his driver, his secretary, the Chief of the Public Office and five other guards were killed. 190
People from the nearby village heard the shooting and went to investigate the following morning. "I walked up the road to see what had happened. I saw all the bodies and was really scared," said a witness. "I didn't know at that time that it was the governor. Then the UPC arrived and started to destroy the houses in my village. I don't know why. They made people come with them to the scene and bury four UPC soldiers but not the ones near the car. They were very nervous and made them do it quickly as they wanted to leave straight away."191
Witnesses and local residents who lived near the ambush site claim that UPC soldiers attacked the Governor's car. One said:
At around 6:00 p.m. there were a lot of shots in the Nzii area not far away where the APC were fighting with the UPC. I fled about half a mile away along with others. The shooting stopped at about 6:30 and I returned to my house. Near my place I saw APC soldiers on the road walking away from the place where the fighting had been. They heard a car approaching and so they hid on the edge of the road. After it passed some of them came out and shouted "APC, APC let's go" and then many of them came out and carried on walking down the road in the direction opposite to that taken by the car. . . . A few moments later I heard shots again in the direction the car had taken which lasted for about 15 minutes. I stayed alone in my house that night and saw no more soldiers pass that evening.193
A few days later UPC soldiers raided the Governor's house in Bunia and looted everything inside.
At the time of writing, no official investigation has been carried out and no one has been charged with the murder of the most senior local authority in Bunia.
Blocking Humanitarian Aid and Targeting Humanitarian Workers
In early 2003 UPC authorities expelled the Belgian priest, Mark Deneckere of the White Fathers of Africa, for having helped a group of displaced Lendu, the same group whose story drew the wrath of the authorities on journalist Khan in the incident described above. Father Deneckere had worked in Ituri for over 40 years. He said:
In August the UPC burned many houses in Bunia and that night the Lendu came to us with what little they had, asking for assistance. They took refuge in an empty house nearby. I was later accused of taking these people hostage - all 120 of them. How could I possibly have done that? Of course I helped them. How could I not? They were people in need and as a priest I could not ignore that.
Then a journalist did a story on the situation in Bunia that really angered the UPC. On February 9 the UPC took me into the house where the Lendu had taken refuge and claimed that they did not know these people were there. This was of course impossible as they had visited many times and often the soldiers would look over the wall. I was told I had to come for an interrogation. On February 11, 2003 I was officially summoned to their office and they asked me many questions. They accused me of helping the Lendu, of giving them weapons, and wanted to know why I had opened my doors to them. It was absurd.196
On February 14, 2003 the UPC gave Father Deneckere 48 hours to leave Ituri. The expulsion order gives the reason as "secretly hosting displaced people with the intention of tarnishing the UPC movement and of being in contact with negative forces against peace and reconciliation."197
UPC soldiers threatened and actually attacked priests and aid workers in other areas as well. On January 15, 2003, the UPC attacked the parish in Nioka where a feeding center for malnourished children had been set up with the assistance of an international nongovernmental organization. They arrested and beat the priests, accusing them of helping the Lendu. They looted the parish and then destroyed the warehouse where the food for the feeding center was kept. A witness said:
There were four UPC soldiers who came with a Hema civilian called Jabu. They accused us of being with the APC and having weapons. They said they were could do anything they wanted to us. They beat me for nearly thirty minutes. They accused me of being with the Lendu and said they would kill me like they were killing the Lendu. They took some of the Lendu from the village, men named Njangu and Kpatchuma, and they executed them behind the prison. I had to sleep outside all night long.
They looted the parish, shot into the ceiling and tied up Father Mario, one of the white priests. They accused him of helping the Lendu because he was working at the feeding center for malnourished children. They took him to the prison in Nioka and asked him for money. They beat him. They made another priest carry water for them all day long. He was kept for two days and hit with a stick. I managed to escape to the forest where I stayed for four days.
All we were doing was helping starving children - Lendu and others as well. Now all that is finished which is exactly what they wanted.198
The increase of attacks by armed groups has caused humanitarian agencies to reduce their activities in the area, despite the desperate need of tens of thousands of people for assistance. According to a relief worker, the results have been catastrophic, "Thousands of people will have died because of political games." 199
UPC authorities have also intimidated and in one case expelled UN personnel. On November 23, 2002, UPC President Lubanga declared persona non grata a UN officer from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) who had protested against the arrest and intimidation of humanitarian workers. The official reasons for his expulsion were "arrogance, malicious intervention, spreading of false rumors and discourteous language to UPC officials," charges which Lubanga declared to be "very serious for the security of the territory controlled by the UPC." 200 Another OCHA representative and a MONUC staff member had previously left Bunia after intimidation by Hema leaders.
The Murders of ICRC Staff
Human Rights Watch had access to information gathered by the police and was able to independently verify some of it. The evidence suggests a conspiracy to kill international aid workers carried out by local Hema community leaders, some of whom were members of the UPC, and Ugandan soldiers.
On April 26, 2001, a team from the ICRC was attacked in the early afternoon shortly after leaving Fataki, in the Djugu territory of Ituri, and heading towards Bunia. All six ICRC staff members were killed and the two cars burned. The bodies were discovered shortly afterwards by others on the road who raised the alarm, and a team of Ugandan military and local police came from the nearby town of Djugu. A witness said:
Behind the second vehicle there were five bodies in a row. The sixth body was a little further away. It looked like the bodies may have been arranged after they died. They all had cuts and spear marks on them and one had a spear mark in the back of his head. Some of the bodies had drag marks and it looked like they had been moved afterwards. The bodies were collected and taken to Djugu and shortly afterwards to Bunia by the military under the escort of Ugandan army Sector Commander Colonel Muzoora.202
According to witnesses, the Ugandan army Major David, usually posted at Fataki, had been in Fataki the morning of the murders and arrived in Djugu at about 5:30 p.m. having apparently traveled a longer road, perhaps to avoid being near the place of attack. He was accompanied by three well-known Hema extremists named Loringa, Assau and Tharcisse. That night Major David, Ugandan soldiers, and the three Hema civilians went to the crime scene, but refused to allow local police to accompany them.203
Two days later an official inquiry team including police investigators and some ministers arrived from Bunia. Thomas Lubanga was among them, although his job responsibilities at the time as Minister of Youth, Sport and Leisure did not include criminal investigations. There were also a large number of Ugandan soldiers attached to the team despite reservations concerning their presence expressed by the Minister of Justice.204
A witness told the team that he had seen five men leaving the scene of the crime, three in uniform and carrying backpacks and two in civilian dress. This witness changed his statement a few days later and said the men were not in uniform.205 Despite requests from the Assistant Administrator of the Territory, the Ugandan army did not provide protection to this witness and he later disappeared.
Several days after the crime, the Ugandan army allegedly conducted a "clean-up" exercise in which they encircled the area called Likopi near the crime scene and killed some twenty-five people, including a judge named Jicho who lived three miles from where the ICRC murders had taken place.206 Civilian police were afraid to investigate these latest killings.
Soon after the Ugandan army arrested a Lendu man named Dongo Tchudja, whom they accused of committing the murders along with other Lendu bandits. According to the Ugandan army, Mr Dongo confessed to the murders. The accused, however, repeatedly changed his statement and got many details wrong in his "confession," such as the date, color of the cars, and number of people he killed.207 The Ugandan army guarded the "perpetrator" at a container in their military camp at the Bunia airport and refused to hand him over to the civilian judicial authorities. A MONUC observer who spoke with Dongo said that he appeared "unbalanced".208 The suspect continued to be held without charge and in January 2002 the magistrate sent a letter to the new prosecutor complaining about the continued interrogation of Dongo.209 According to local sources, Ugandan soldiers then took Dongo to Kampala without asking the consent of local judicial authorities or even informing them of it. His fate is unknown.
The Ugandans and the FLC announced that the killer of the ICRC team had been apprehended before the official enquiry was completed. Local police tried to continue their investigation and summoned men from Fataki for questioning, including those named Mohindo, Tharcisse, Assau, Adidace, and Loringa. When those summoned failed to appear, the police found no way to compel them to come. At one point, they asked the vice-governor for backing and he refused, saying, "It is not my affair".210
Lubanga sought access to the local police files, as did senior officers of the Ugandan army. Eventually the Ugandan army sent an officer to take the files from the prosecutor, saying that a plane was due to arrive from Kampala to take the information to President Museveni. The Ugandan officer was given some of the documents, but not the whole file.211
Those familiar with Hema politics believe that a number of Hema community leaders may have held meetings several months before to plan the crime. As one insider explained to Human Rights Watch researchers, "I believe the Hema leaders planned to kill the people from ICRC. I heard people talking about it before it happened and they told me they were going to carry out an ambush. . . .They didn't want the ICRC to help the Lendu and they were very much against them."212
According to diplomatic sources, the Government of Uganda set up a military investigation into the ICRC killings in mid-2002, but no results have been published and, to our knowledge, no arrests have been made.
Inhumane Acts - Cannibalism and Deliberate Mutilations of Corpses
Perpetrators in these cases may have consumed human flesh as part of a larger political and ritual context, as has happened elsewhere in the DRC and in the world.213 Cannibalism is sometimes linked to the belief that those who consume the flesh of a person acquire his strength. The appearance of this practice at this time in Ituri may indicate that peoples subjected to constant threat over a period of years have become cannibals as a way of strengthening themselves and assuring their survival. It may also mean that perpetrators have found that fear of cannibalism terrorizes victims more effectively into compliance with their orders than does the simple fear of death, so frequently faced in daily life.
In the last three months of 2002, MLC and RCD-N troops raped, killed, and cannibalized Pygmies, hunters and gatherers who live in the forest. They sought thus to terrorize the Pygmies into helping them as guides through the dense forest so that they could avoid travel on the main roads where they would be subject to attack. Some of the combatants who engaged in this practice may have hoped to acquire strength from their victims.
Human Rights Watch researchers gathered information about the case of a Pygmy named Amuzati. A witness said:
About twenty miles from Mambasa, the MLC soldiers attacked a Pygmy camp. Amuzati, who was hunting in the forest, heard shooting. As he wasn't far from his camp he returned to see what was happening. About half a mile away, he heard shouts and crying and then there was silence. He came closer and saw several soldiers. He saw the corpses of his family, including his nephew, four or five years old, with his stomach cut open. They were cutting the flesh off the victims. Then he watched as they ate his mother, elder brother, and two nephews. He was filled with emotion and afraid that if he shouted, they would catch him too, so he crept away. 214
Some Lendu militia carried out deliberate mutilations and acts of cannibalism against their victims, mainly targeting the Hema. This often involved a ritual in which the flesh of the victim was distributed to Lendu combatants. A witness taken by Lendu militias on the road near Makofi in November 2002 said:
I was in a truck with five other people en route to Mongbwalu. Near Makofi we ran out of fuel. We started to walk when we were attacked by the Lendu. There were many of them with guns and machetes. They surrounded us and captured us. They started to interrogate the driver, Independent Dedjo and they hit him. They also beat me. They asked us what tribe we were from and we said Alur. They asked us for our identity cards. They did not believe the driver and thought he was Hema. A man who knew me and some of the others vouched for us and said we were Alur, but he did not know the driver. They decided to conduct a test. They rolled two eggs on the ground. If the eggs rolled back then the man was not a Hema, if they did not, then he was. The eggs did not roll back.
They told Dedjo to run for his life. As he ran they shot at him with arrows. He fell and they cut him with their machetes. They killed him. Then they lit a fire and grilled his body for hours. Six of the Lendu fighters ate the meat. The rest of us saw them do this. We were held for four days and they threatened to do the same to us. Commander Katumba was in charge of the fighters and organized all this. I think he is now dead. Eventually we paid them with the goods from the truck and they let us go.215
Some Hema combatants of the UPC have carried out similar acts of deliberate mutilation of bodies and cannibalism. A witness from Mongbwalu explained what he saw the Hema militia do:
The Hema didn't have any pity for people. They slashed them with machetes. They cut people's ears off and made them eat them, then they killed them. I saw this happen in Pluto. For example, they caught a Lendu combatant. They cut off his ear and part of his buttock and made him eat them. They killed him with machetes.216
A witness from Boga area, south of Bunia, said:
In September 2002, the Hema intercepted some Ngiti to the south of Kyabwoke in the Boga area. A young man, the son of Obadhia, came to me and bragged that he had killed an Ngiti woman. He had cut off her genitals and had put the clitoris on his forehead like a trophy. He wanted to show how strong he was.
In October 2002, the Hema again attacked the Ngiti in Zungulouka. When they returned from the attack they brought with them forty ears and one hand that they had cut off their victims. They carried them in a stripped plastic bag like the ones that hold shopping. They called us over to look at them and I saw it myself. They were singing victory songs. Commander Ateenyi Kagwa directed the operation. They said they had killed many people and they looted as well. They came back with more than twenty goats. The killing must have been horrible; even today you can still see skeletons in that place where people were slaughtered.217
In the DRC a girl or woman who has been raped has been personally dishonored and, through no fault of her own, has brought shame to her household. An unmarried woman who has been raped will have trouble finding a husband if the crime becomes known. A married woman could be rejected by her husband or his family and suffer daily humiliation, if not outright expulsion from the household. Many victims are afraid to talk about the crimes, but groups working with women describe the situation as desperate, saying that rape is widespread even if rarely talked about.219 Human Rights Watch researchers confirmed this conclusion during the course of their field work.
During attacks on Mambasa in October and November 2002, numerous MLC and RCD-N soldiers raped women. Witnesses describe one case:
In Mambasa in November 2002, a young girl, aged 14, was raped by four soldiers of the MLC. She was a virgin. They pinned her to the bed. They forced her brother to watch and said that if he left, they would kill her. . . . After they raped her, she cried. They slapped her on her face and leg and told her to stop crying. They said: "We can do what we want as long as we don't kill people." She bled for three days and was sick for two months afterwards. 220
The aunt of one victim recounted another instance of rape:
One day in early November we were on the road near Mambasa when we ran into three soldiers who seemed to be MLC. Some had camouflage uniforms and others just had green ones; some of them had green berets. They took all our things from us including our bicycle and goats and then they took our niece who was only fifteen years old and raped her in front of us. They spoke to us in Lingala and they took her away with them. We have not seen her since. Her name was Marie Anzoyo and she is Logo. I know other girls were taken as well including a girl called Therese and another called Vero.221
A witness described another case:
In October 2002, two miles from Mambasa, the daughter of a man named Ndalo was raped and then disappeared. She was about twelve. Several soldiers raped her in the bush, and then they took her away. It was at night. The father was present. We never saw the girl again.
The victim in yet another case said:
I was raped one night in December, at about 11 pm, in our house, by five Bemba [MLC] soldiers. My mother-in-law was also raped. They came while we were sleeping. They were wearing military uniforms. All five of them did it. My father-in-law was made to hold my one-year-old child and was forced to watch. They also beat him with ropes. They said they wanted to kill all Nande and take Mambasa. I managed to get out through the window. My father-in-law helped me climb out. He fled; I don't know where he is now. My mother-in-law was taken by the soldiers.
In another case, a Pygmy woman was sexually assaulted by soldiers. A witness said:
In Nombi a Pygmy woman was attacked by soldiers. She had gone into the forest to search for food and met a group of military from Mambasa. They were in civilian clothes and spoke both Lingala and Swahili. There were many of them. They captured the woman and interrogated her. She told them she was looking for food to trade for salt. They got out some salt they had and forced her to eat it at gunpoint. They also made her eat a kind of meat she didn't recognize. After eating all this they shaved her head and forced her to strip. A soldier then put his hand into her vagina. No one stopped it. They let her go but told her she must not talk about what had happened. She was very sick from having eaten all the salt and when she arrived back at her Pygmy camp she told the others what had happened. They tried to find traditional medicine to help her but she is still sick in Nombi.222
Rape was a frequent part of general massacres and other ethnically targeted violence that was taking place in Ituri. In Nyakunde a witness tells of how she was raped by Ngiti combatants:
On the night they came to search out the Hema and the enemies, I was picked out with two other women who were students. When they came to me, they said that they had previously told those who were not enemies to leave Nyakunde. Therefore as I had stayed I must be the enemy and would have to be tortured. They bound my hands, took me out of the room and started to beat me. They hit me repeatedly on my head and my back.
At about 4:00 in the morning they made us walk to the nurses' compound. They made us go into the first house and continued to hit us. There were about nine combatants - four of them had guns, others had machetes, spears, and axes. They made us strip and then they raped us. Two men raped me, three men raped each of the other girls - it lasted about an hour and a half. I knew the men who raped me. They were people from Nyakunde. One said to me that he had liked me before but that my parents wouldn't let him marry me. He said he could do whatever he wanted to me and that I didn't have a word to say about it. He even said he could kill me if he wanted to.
After they finished raping me they said I could put on some of my clothes and that I should go to check on my son - he was just twelve years old. My son had a Lendu father, so he is Lendu although I am considered Hema. They started to accompany me to the hospital but then they disappeared and I fled. The other two girls were taken to another house, but I don't know what happened to them. I looked everywhere for my boy that night but couldn't find him. I heard they had taken him to transport their goods to Songolo and it was only much later that I heard from a friend that he had died.
I am now five months pregnant by the men who raped me. I don't know what to do. I have no future.223
In another case, it was Hema combatants of the UPC who raped two young Lendu women. A witness said:
In July 2002, two young Lendu women were abducted and raped by UPC militias. They were going to the market from Rwankole with the husband of one of the women when some UPC members identified the women as Lendu. They took the two women and the young husband into a nearby building. They put them in a room and beat them. They killed the husband with machetes and raped the women. Many soldiers raped them. They stayed there for thirteen days with almost no food. A soldier sometimes gave them water. They were held naked throughout and were raped repeatedly. They saw the husband being buried in the compound. Another Bira boy was also killed in front of them with machetes and buried in the same grave. The soldiers suspected him of being a Lendu combatant.224
Women who have been brutalized by sexual violence may suffer continuing physical problems or may contract sexually transmitted diseases or be infected by HIV-virus. Most such victims receive no medical help, either because there is no functioning medical facility near enough to visit or because they fear that seeking help will make the crime generally known in the community. Many girls and women will never recover from the physical, psychological, and social effects of these assaults and some will die from them.
Protocol II of 1977 to the 1949 Geneva Conventions prohibits all combatants in an internal armed conflict from recruiting children under the age of fifteen or allowing them to take part in hostilities.226 The basic human rights standard on the recruitment of children for the armed forces is set by article 38 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), ratified by the DRC in 1990, which restates the ban on the recruitment of under-fifteens established in Protocol II.227
The CRC's article 38 is an anomaly in using a fifteen-year age minimum; in all other respects, the CRC definition of a child is any person under the age of eighteen. Other international standards have been adopted since the drafting of the CRC that strengthen protections for children affected by armed conflict. These standards reflect a growing international consensus that children under the age of eighteen should not participate in armed conflict. The Optional Protocol to the CRC on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict establishes eighteen as the minimum age for direct participation in hostilities, for compulsory recruitment, and for any recruitment or use in hostilities by irregular armed groups. The DRC ratified the Optional Protocol in November 2001.
Human Rights Watch researchers observed a large number of child soldiers among UPC combatants. In an interview with Human Rights Watch researchers, UPC President Lubanga claimed to have 15,000 troops. Local experts and observers believe that nearly 40 per cent of these are children under the age of eighteen. In February 2003, witnesses saw newly recruited children, still in their school uniforms, on the streets of Bunia. During their visit to the president, researchers saw a number of soldiers guarding his residence who were clearly younger than eighteen. When asked about this, Lubanga said, "The UPC does not have many children under eighteen. When we recuperate people from the militia, we sometimes find children. We don't force anyone. It is just those who come freely."228
Yet there are frequent reports of the forcible recruitment of children by the UPC. On November 8, 2002 at 8:00 a.m., the UPC reportedly entered the Ecole Primaire of Mudzi Pela and forcibly rounded up the entire fifth grade, some forty children, for military service. A similar operation was carried out in Salongo where the UPC surrounded a neighborhood and then abducted all the children they could find. At the end of November, a school director complained that half of his students had been lost and spoke openly against the forcible recruitment. The Mothers Forum of Ituri complained to UPC President Lubanga in late 2002 about the recruitment of children. The UPC opened a small demobilization center, but, according to local people, this was a mere public relations gimmick; the recruitment of children continued.229
Witnesses report that at the start of the conflict each Hema family had to give one child to the Hema militias or had to pay to be exempt from this obligation. If parents refused, their children were taken by force. Parents with the necessary financial means sent their children away to Kisangani, Kampala, or elsewhere to avoid their being pressed into military service.230
Many observers described the UPC force as "an army of children". The children, some as young as seven and including girls, were trained by the UPC at training centers in Mandro and Rwampara for one to two months before being sent into action. A person arrested by the UPC in Bunia said he was guarded by child soldiers." There were four children guarding the cell, all under 13," he recounted. "I asked them what they were doing there. They said their parents were dead and they could earn something in the army. One of them said he'd done only three years of school. They were all armed but you could tell they didn't want to be there."231
MONUC observers reported back to headquarters in Kinshasa that an estimated twenty percent of the recruits in Mandro camp were children.232 Other sources estimated the Mandro camp to have about 5,000 fighters, implying there may have been nearly 1,000 child soldiers there. On September 10 and 27 MONUC officers reported to Kinshasa that the UPC was continuing forcible recruitment of children. When MONUC staff took up the problem with UPC Commander Bosco he said that "the underage children were all orphans and that the UPC were looking after them."233 He insisted that all recruitment was voluntary.
The UPC has even mobilized child soldiers who were demobilized by efforts of UNICEF in late 2000. MONUC protection officers and other independent sources, including Human Rights Watch, reported that Congolese children, mostly Hema, were being training in Uganda. After local and international pressure, the Ugandan army admitted that it was training the Congolese recruits and gave UNICEF and other agencies access to them. The group included 163 children. With much fanfare, these child soldiers were returned to Bunia in early 2001, a "success" in demobilizing children. But little was done for the children after their return and the majority of them, an estimated 130, have since been recruited again by the UPC.234
103 Human Rights Watch interviews, Bunia and Kampala, February 2003. See also U.N. Security Council, "Final Report of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the DRC," S/2002/1146, October 16, 2002, paragraph 121.
110 "Originaires" and "non-originaires", meaning indigenous and non-indigenous. The French term is used throughout as it is has a specific relevance in Ituri. The ethnic groups who are "originaires" tend to include Hema, Bira, Lendu, Ndo Okebo, and Alur although this is contested. In practice since the Lendu are considered the "enemy", the concept "originaires" for the Hema excludes them.
113 This was done by the Bira Chief of Andisomma. It was likely also linked with historical tensions between the Bira and the Ngiti over land. Much of this history has not been forgotten by either group and is often cited as further justification for killings by both sides. Human Rights Watch interview, Oicha, February 2003.
152 This figure is based on information collected from a variety of sources, including eyewitnesses and others who collected bodies for burial. Many of the victims were buried in mass graves in Nyakunde. It is likely that the number killed is actually much higher.
213 There are also reports of cannibalism by the Mai Mai in the Kivus in DRC, see IRIN-CEA Weekly Round-up 161, February 8 - 14, 2003. Eating the flesh or internal organs of the enemy has been reported in a number of armed conflicts in recent years. See, e.g. "You'll Have to Learn Not to Cry": Child Combatants in Colombia, Human Rights Watch, forthcoming July 2003; Sowing Terror: Atrocities against Civilians in Sierra Leone, Human Rights Watch, July 1998, p. 12; Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda, Human Rights Watch: New York, March 1999, p. 255; Vigilantes in the Philippines: A Threat to Democratic Rule, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights: New York, 1988, p. 44.
218 Human Rights Watch researchers and their Congolese colleagues documented a similar pattern in North and South Kivu provinces of eastern DRC in 2002. Human Rights Watch, The War Within the War: Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in Eastern Congo, June 2002.
226 Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II), 8 June 1977, art. 4(3)(c). Although the DRC is not a party to Protocol II, many of its provisions are widely accepted as customary international law.