Accessibility links

Congo, Rwanda, Uganda Reject UN Report on Ituri Abuses - 2004-08-11

The governments of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda have rejected claims by the United Nations that, during the last two years, they have fueled massive human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo's troubled north eastern district of Ituri.

Over the last 18 months, Ituri, a mineral rich but lawless north eastern corner of the Congo, has been in the spotlight as a flashpoint of the years of war that have plagued Africa's third largest country.

But a U.N. report issued on Monday still makes shocking reading, detailing two years of systematic killing, raping and pillaging by armed groups that have left the remote region with about 8,000 people dead and an estimated 600,000 forced out of their homes.

Besides the armed groups themselves, the U.N. investigators accused the governments of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda of having trained and armed the different ethnically aligned factions between 2002 and early 2004.

The governments of the three countries Wednesday rejected these claims, saying they have not been involved and had nothing to gain from the conflict. Rwanda said that it had not been involved in Ituri and would not be in the future.

A spokesman for Congo's transitional government denied that Kinshasa had supported any of the armed groups. He underlined that it was Congo's President Joseph Kabila who had earlier this year invited the International Criminal Court to come and investigate war crimes in Ituri and start the process of bringing justice to Ituri.

Meanwhile, Uganda said the U.N. report was not based on fact and insisted Kampala had been playing a positive role in Congo's peace process.

Congo's government is struggling to lead the country out of five years of war towards democratic elections, due in under a year's time. But former warring factions remain deeply divided, and Ituri is just one of several regions that the government struggles to control.

Both Rwanda and Uganda invaded Congo in the 1990s in support of different rebel groups fighting Kinshasa during Congo's war. But they have officially withdrawn their troops following peace deals two years ago.

Last month, representatives of the International Criminal Court were in Kinshasa visiting the local authorities, and they are expected to return in the coming months to begin investigations in war crimes committed during the war in Ituri.