Thursday, June 17, 2004

DRC: the "G" word

The UN team sent to investigate allegations of genocide in eastern Congo announced their preliminary findings yesterday saying that they had found no evidence of genocide. The team said that civilians from every community in Bukavu have suffered. The team will continue its investigation in neighbouring Rwanda, interviewing Congolese refugees who fled to Cyangungu.

Soldiers led by General Laurent Nkunda and Colonel Jules Mutebusi rose up against the government on May 26 and took Bukavu on June 2. Nkunda and Mutebusi said they were trying to protect the Banyamulenge -- often referred to as Congolese Tutsi -- from being massacred, from a planned genocide.

Nkunda and his forces withdrew from Bukavu about a week after they got there ... Mutebusi's forces chose to stay in a camp in Bukavu ... and government troops asserted their control of the town a couple of days later. (Mutebusi and his soldiers later leave Bukavu and were reported to have moved toward another town.)

A few days after he withdrew, Nkunda threatened to return to Bukavu because he said the Banyamulenge were being targeted for reprisals. When he left, he said he did so to allow the government to send a delegation to investigate what was going on. He raised the issue again this past Sunday, threatening war unless the government sets up a commission to investigate the alleged ethnic slaughter in Bukavu.

Here is where things start getting muddy ... when Nkunda withdrew, he is quoted as having told MONUC: "I withdraw unconditionally. I was mistaken. There has been no genocide against Banyamulenge in Bukavu."

Now check out these different perspectives on Nkunda's statements ...
[...] a key Banyamulenge leader, Benoit Mubanda Kadage, has jumped on Nkunda's bandwagon.

Mubanda, who is head of the Banyamulenge community in the eastern towns of Bukavu, Uvira, Goma, and Minembwe, the capital, Kinshasa, and the ethnic group's diaspora, said in a statement published in the press Wednesday that events in Bukavu "constitute acts of genocide".

[...] But transition lawmaker, Enoch Ruberangabo Sebineza, also a member of the Banyamulenge community, has taken an entirely different tack.

He denounced Nkunda and the other dissident soldiers in eastern DRC as "true criminals, whom the Banyamulenge community does not need".
What ever is going on, people are definitely scared. Some 22,000 refugees, Banamulenge and otherwise, have fled into neighbouring Burundi. The UNHCR has set-up two camps, one camp in Cibitoke for 8,027 Banyamulenge, and another camp five miles away for 14,534 people from other Congolese ethnic groups. According to the UNHCR, another 5,000 or so Congolese refugees are in a camp in Rwanda.

---

For a brief bio of Nkunda, see this.

Also ... Human Rights Watch has thi breifing on what happened in Bukavu. (Worth a read.)

---

MONUC -- United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo