October 08, 1997
Rights group issues new report on massacres in Congo
By Evelyn Leopold
UNITED NATIONS(Reuter) - A human rights group Wednesday accused Rwanda's Tutsi Army and supporters of Congo President Laurent Kabila of systematic massacres of Rwandan refugees, and feared the killings were still going on.
At the same time Human Rights Watch/Africa, in a 40-page report, said forces loyal to former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, overthrown by Kabila last May, were responsible ``for countless acts of looting, destruction and rape'' in the former Zaire.
But it said that their six-week investigation in and outside the Congo last summer showed that killings by allies of Kabila of Rwandan Hutu refugees were ``remarkably different in their scale, nature and motivation'' as his forces from November to May crossed the country from east to west.
``Civilians killings have continued on an alarming scale'' in the northern Kivu region in eastern Congo ``in the early months of the war and from April 1997 to the present.'' The report said some of the recent killings concerned land rights and conflicts over political power.
The Human Rights Watch report was not the first to allege mass killings and produce evidence of graves. But it was the most recent and came as a United Nations team was blocked in probing the killings and was last week recalled to New York for consultations.
The Hutus fled their homeland, along with perpetrators of the 1994 genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda. A Tutsi led army then took over in Kigali and later helped Kabila to power.
Human Rights Watch called on the United States to acknowledge publicly the deliberate killings of civilians by Rwanda and Kabila's forces and suspend any tactical military and other support to the Kigali government.
While Washington was pressuring Kabila to cooperate with the U.N. probe, the report said U.S. embassy officials in Rwanda were close to the government and last year deliberately gave out misinformation on how many refugees were missing.
It said the U.N. probe should continue investigations based on sources outside the country and also include its own failure to remove Hutu fighters from the refugee camps in eastern Zaire, thereby permitting them to attack Rwanda.
It said that Hutu fighters still threatened the Congo's security, also attacked civilians and used the country as a base to launch raids into Rwanda.
But it said the Rwandan army and some Congolese had been more systematic, separating and executing Hutu militia, former government officials and intellectuals.
The women and children were urged to go home but some were allowed to flee westward. As they did so the ``killings became more indiscriminate and women and children were more often included in massacres,'' the report said.
In Mbandaka, northwest of Kinshasa, Kabila's troops last May asked residents to shout out in Lingala, the local language, warnings for people to get down on the ground.
``Refugees in the crowd, who did not understand Lingala, remained standing and were subsequently singled out and fired upon'' on the assumption they were Rwandans, it said.