‘Crimes against humanity in DRC’
GENEVA: A militia group blamed for atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo was largely composed of children, while a militia formed to defeat it was suspected of a campaign of ethnically based massacres and rapes, according to UN investigators.
Their report, detailing violence that the UN said may amount to crimes against humanity, has shone a light on the role of children and witchcraft in a conflict that has killed thousands. It was based on testimonies from refugees who had fled the violence in the DRC to Angola.
The investigation documented 251 killings over a three-month period in an area that covers only a fraction of the 152 800km2 diamond-rich Kasai region.
One militia group, the Kamuina Nsapu, has been fighting the DRC government for a year and has executed at least 79 people, the UN report said.
“A great majority of the Kamuina Nsapu elements are children (girls and boys), some as young as 7,” it said.
The refugees were convinced the Kamuina Nsapu had magical powers and militia members believed their magic – including young girls drinking the blood of decapitated victims – would make them invincible, the report said.
A second militia group, the Bana Mura, was formed in March or April, allegedly armed and supported by local leaders, to attack the Luba and Lulua ethnic groups, to which Kamuina Nsapu fighters belong.
Scott Campbell, head of central and west Africa at the UN human rights office, said the violence had spiralled out of control with the complicity of the government of President Joseph Kabila, whose mandate expired last December and the UN was concerned it could be used to delay a fresh election.
The DRC government denied any systematic use of excessive force and said recent prosecutions showed its justice system’s ability to deal with crimes committed during the conflict.
The UN has identified 80 mass graves in Kasai. – Reuters