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Rights group blames Rwandans, Kabila’s forces for Congo massacres

October 9, 1997

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ The Rwandan army and Laurent Kabila’s forces carried out most of the massacres of civilians in eastern Congo and killings there are still going on, a human rights group has charged.

In a 40-page report released Wednesday, Human Rights Watch/Africa acknowledged that troops loyal to the late Mobutu Sese Seko also committed murders, rapes and other abuses during Kabila’s seven-month rebellion, which ended with Mobutu’s downfall and Kabila’s installation as president.

Last week, Secretary-General Kofi Annan recalled four leaders of a U.N. team sent to the Congo to investigate the alleged massacres after differences with the government stalled the probe.

Human Rights Watch/Africa urged the international community to step up pressure on Kabila to allow the investigation to proceed.

Kabila claims that if there were massacres, they were committed by Mobutu’s troops and their Rwandan Hutu militia allies. Those militiamen were among the 1 million Rwandans who fled to eastern Congo _ then known as Zaire _ to escape reprisals after the slaughter of 500,000 Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994.

But Human Rights Watch said abuses committed by Kabila’s forces and the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan army ``are remarkably different in their scale, nature and motivation″ from those carried out by Mobutu’s troops and Rwandan militiamen.

``These killings and the intentional blocking of aid were apparently both in revenge for the 1994 genocide (in Rwanda)″ _ and to weaken Hutu militiamen who were fighting alongside Mobutu’s soldiers, the report said.

Human Rights Watch claimed the United States was aware in advance of Rwanda’s plans to intervene in the Congo rebellion.

The report said the Pentagon signed off as early as August 1995 on Rwanda’s plans to clear out the refugee camps in eastern Congo ``provided it was a `clean’ operation, meaning one with limited civilian casualties.″

In August 1996, Rwandan Defense Minister Paul Kagame told the Americans that Rwanda was ready to dismantle the camps if no one else acted, the report said.

The report also alleged that the Rwandan army systematically separated young men, former Rwandan Hutu government officials and Hutu intellectuals from among refugees and executed them.

After the 1994 genocide, a Tutsi-dominated rebel army overthrew Rwanda’s Hutu government. The conflict spilled over into neighboring Zaire, which became the Democratic Republic of Congo after Kabila’s victory over Mobutu five months ago.

``Authorities in Congo have made concerted efforts to conceal the evidence of civilian killing ... largely through the physical cleanup of massacre sites and by the intimidation of witnesses,″ the report said.

It also said killings appear to be continuing, especially in eastern Congo’s North Kivu province.

``Many of the killings in recent months have been related to unresolved issues of land rights, customary power and political leadership,″ the report said. ``Many returning Tutsis have been attacked by what they describe as a mix″ of Rwandan Hutu militiamen and tribal minorities.

It said residents of the eastern Congo city of Goma ``also reported a general insecurity in the town due in large part to frequent looting and killings by Rwandan soldiers, who often slip across the border to Rwanda following abuses.″

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