Saturday, 18 September 2010

Leaked United Nations report into Congo

Rwandan refugees passed a body in a refugee camp in Congo in 1997.
Rwandan refugees passed a body in a refugee camp in Congo in 1997.
Image © Roger Lemoyne/Liaison, via Getty Images

Three weeks ago, a United Nations mapping report “documenting the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed within the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo between March 1993 and June 2003” was leaked to the press.  The purpose of the report is a mapping exercise to detail over 600 cases of serious atrocities that occurred in the DRC during the ten year period and it includes of attacks against Tutsi and Banyamulenge civilians and Hutu refugees.  This is a massive 508 page document that gives harrowing detail of rapes, murders, torture and war crimes committed against both civilian and militia targets. 

Unfortunately, the appalling and shocking nature of the crimes has become overshadowed in the political storm that has resulted since then.  Quite simply, the report could possibly implicate the Rwandan government in an act of genocide against Hutu refugees that fled to what was then Zaire after the 1994 genocide.  Civilians made up of men, women and children were not separated from the Interahamwe militia in refugee camps and the report contains allegations that Rwandan soldiers were indiscriminate and unrelenting in their attempts to pursue the former militias.  The New York Times reported in the article U.N. Congo Report Offers New View on Genocide that the massacres were systematic and that insufficient effort was made to protect (or even exclude) civilians from the attacks.  The New York Times then reported that the U.N. Delays Release of Report on Possible Congo Genocide and that Rwanda were so angry about the report that they were threatening to pull peacekeeping troops out of Darfur.

On his blog Congo Siasa, Jason Stearns reminds us that:

“The report's intention is to call for accountability for the mass atrocities committed during ten years of conflict in the Congo, not to single out Rwanda for "acts of genocide." Indeed, Angolan, Burundian, Ugandan, Chadian and Congolese officials are also cited for war crimes in the report. While the systematic massacre of Rwandan Hutu refugees stands out as one of the worst crimes committed during the war and deserves to be highlighted, the press should have put the report in context and highlighted its call for a tribunal and a truth and reconciliation commission” - Thoughts on the UN mapping report (Congo Siasa, August 28, 2010)

The most interesting portions of the United Nations document are commentary on why the Truth and reconciliation commission failed and the insight into the nature of sexual violence in the area.  I have uploaded the full document which you can either read online or download (5.79mb). 

The above mentioned report refers to the specific period from 1993 to 2003.  What it does not cover is the ongoing violence against women and children in the area.  It is reported that starting in July 2010, rebels forces took over an area in eastern Congo and up to 242 women were raped.  The New York Times article Rape Victims in Congo Raid Now More Than 240 details how Congolese and Rwandan rebels groups took over villages in the Walikale region of North Kivu “assaulting their victims in groups of two to six”. 

The Rwandan forces involved are members of the Hutu power rebel group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (DFLR).  The group is also known as FDLR after their French name Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda.  This group is opposed to Tutsi rule and influence in the region and is made up of many former Interahamwe members. 

As usual, there are reports of United Nations inaction.  They were aware of the attacks since 30 July and that nothing was done to prevent the numbers of victims rising to over 242 by early September.



  1. How it went unoticed for so long was just disgusting, it saddens me to hear about this every time. The first time I become aware of the situation which had happened between tutsi and hutu was the movie Hotel Rewanda, the first movie I have ever cried at.

  2. It is scary what a blind eye is turned to. Lets hope for arrests of war crimes some time soon

  3. What is happening in the DR Congo shows the most deprived elements of humankind. I do not think it is coincidence that reports were released late. The UN has become almost impotent in helping these people. Is it because of vested interests in the minerals? That's the cynical side of me, but who knows....

  4. @ Dempsey: It hasn't gone unnoticed for so long though. People have been fighting and publicising the situation in the Congo for several years. It is just that the people with the power to do anything aren't really listening.

    @ Mo: To be honest, I am not sure whether justice will be swift here. I think we're in for yet more disappointments.

    @ Cher: I'm not sure if it is anything sinister as opposed to bureaucratic incompetence.


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