‘Crimes against hu­man­ity in DRC’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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