For Immediate Release ¾ June 2, 2004
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): The international community must immediately address ongoing conflict, military occupation, lawlessness, and impunity for ongoing acts of genocide and crimes against humanity, including widespread sexual violence, in DRC.
Survivors’ Rights International (SRI) calls on the international community in the strongest of terms to address ongoing conflict and the climate of impunity and lawlessness in the DRC, to demand governments and other warring parties to order their soldiers to stop committing acts of genocide and crimes against humanity, and to withdraw troops that remain in DRC in contravention of international peace agreements.
SRI calls on the governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda to immediately demand that all military leaders order their troops to stop ongoing atrocities and sexual violence by their respective forces, to investigate abuses and suspend or arrest those responsible, and to desist from arming, or otherwise supporting, diverse factions and militias serving as their proxy armies in DRC.
SRI urges in the strongest of terms that foreign governments with troops in DRC¾and the DRC’s transitional government¾demand the immediate release of women and girls who have been abducted and who remain captive sexual slaves to government soldiers and affiliated militias, to arrest the perpetrators, and investigate the complicity of military leaders and government officials in condoning or participating in the widespread sexual violence, including rapes, torture, disappearances and abductions of women and girls.
SRI wishes to call attention to reports about planned military destabilization in DRC, reportedly led by Rwandan, Burundian and Rwandan-backed RCD-Goma (Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie—Goma) forces, in a new military alliance, Front for the Liberation for Eastern Congo (Front de Liberacion de L’Est du Congo). SRI asks the international community to prevent Rwandan, Burundian and Ugandan forces amassing on their borders from incursions into DRC under the pretense of “defending national security”. Reports are substantiated by renewed warfare in Bukavu, South Kivu, since 26 May 2004, involving RCD-Goma and DRC (Forces Armee Congolaise) troops. SRI condemns the renewed violence, and subsequent 2 June 2004 violations of the ceasefire agreements in the strongest of terms, and calls on the international community to immediately intervene to halt ongoing atrocities and forced displacement of civilians.
SRI calls on U.N. Organization Mission in DRC (MONUC) officials to make public their knowledge about foreign troops in the DRC: estimates indicate that at least 400, and perhaps as many as 4000, Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) troops remain. SRI also calls on the international community to investigate the role of MONUC troops in committing atrocities in DRC, including (widely reported) rapes by MONUC soldiers.
Ongoing problems recently documented and/or reported by SRI sources are listed below. While information from the DRC is difficult to obtain or verify, these sporadic and arbitrarily documented cases indicate a much higher and acute prevalence of ongoing problems, particularly in the inaccessible rural areas.
NORTH & SOUTH KIVU: On approximately April 21, 2004 Rwandan government troops (RPA) suffered a military defeat in eastern DRC after a failed military operation¾in contravention of Rwanda’s signatory participation in DRC peace accords¾against FDLR forces (Forces Democratique du Liberation du Rwanda). SRI sources report that the FDLR routed the RPA, and that RPA troops subsequently retaliated by destroying villages, killing, torturing and raping non-combatant civilians. Reports indicate that uniformed RPA officers have been seen by MONUC (and other observers) commanding RCD-Goma troops in DRC.
EQUATEUR PROVINCE: Unidentified troops, and troops belonging to the RCD-Goma faction, began occupying Equateur in April, reportedly on their way for rendezvous and integration with DRC troops. Transient soldiers have been emptying entire villages along the way, terrorizing local populations already dehumanized by eight years of unrelenting war and inhumanity. Eyewitnesses reports from different parts of Equateur indicate both transient soldiers and resident DRC government FAC (Forces Armee Congolaise) soldiers looting and destroying property; confiscating and occupying homes and schools; conscripting and brutalizing males for forced labor; raping women and girls; and abducting women and girls for prolonged periods of sexual slavery.
ITURI PROVINCE: The situation in Ituri remains unstable, with recurring acts of genocide and crimes against humanity being perpetrated by miscellaneous forces on their opposition ethnic groups, many of which have been armed, supported and manipulated by the Ugandan People’s Defense Forces (UPDF). The Mbuti pygmies continue to suffer the brunt of abuses from all sides. Credible sources report MONUC forces involved in both perpetrating and perpetuating sexual violence.
Numerous international human rights organizations and government bodies have widely and repeatedly documented the atrocities in DRC. Due to the severity of the abuses, the November 10, 2003 report by a U.N. expert investigator called for a more committed international response. Because the report described abuses that amount to genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, the international community has the obligation and responsibility to intervene. (See SRI Press Release, 01/07/2004: Answers to a U.N. Expert’s Call on the International Community to Intervene in DRC to End Genocide
SRI is well aware of recent cases in DRC where local authorities¾challenged with upholding human decency and the rule of law¾have demonstrated their capacity to mitigate violence, identify and hold perpetrators accountable, and locate missing or abducted men, women and children. SRI is aware of cases where young girls taken captive by soldiers were located and released after international relief workers met a commanding officer on the family’s behalf. SRI believes that all governments involved in DRC can therefore immediately mitigate the ongoing violence and impunity and hold the perpetrators to account.
SRI reiterates its call to the international community for immediate action to more substantively and realistically address the ongoing atrocities, general lawlessness and warfare in the DRC, which continues amidst the prevailing attitudes, perceptions and media reportage (outside DRC) of an unfolding peace, and irrespective of the potentially helpful¾but otherwise inadequate and problematic¾presence of forces of the United Nations Organization Mission to the Congo (MONUC).
For further information please contact Survivor’s Rights International researcher:
Keith Harmon Snow at email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or telephone: 413 549-5318.