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May 30, 2012

UN Condemns Upsurge in 'Blind Violence' in Eastern Congo

by Nick Long

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo - The United Nations has condemned an upsurge of what it calls "blind violence" in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. U.N. military officials say some of the most brutal massacres in recent memory have been committed by Congolese ethnic militias and Rwandan rebels.  
 
The U.N. Stabilization Mission in the Congo, known as MONUSCO, says it has collected reports of 98 civilians killed and six wounded in 11 villages of North Kivu province between May 9 and May 25.
 
The mission says the killings were carried out by two Congolese militias - the so-called Mai Mai Rahiya Mutomboki, working with members of the Congolese Defense Force - and by the Rwandan rebel group FDLR.
 
It says most of the victims, including women and children, were killed with machetes, spears and knives.
 
U.N. military spokesman Colonel Mactar Diop said the Rahiya Mutomboki are extremely hostile to those they regard as foreigners - especially members and supporters of the FDLR.
 
He said the Rahiya Mutomboki is a xenophobic group, against everything Rwandophone, and hostile to the Rwandan rebels of the FDLR.  They don’t have a political agenda, he said, except to take control of territory and drive out the Rwandophones and the FDLR.
 
The Rwandophones are Kinyarwanda speakers, of both the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. They are migrants or descendants of migrants to the Congo from neighboring Rwanda. FDLR members are the remnant of Rwandan Hutu forces who fled to Congo after the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.  

Diop said killings have spiked recently.
 
He said there has been an upsurge of killings in the past two months since Congolese army troops were redeployed elsewhere to combat a mutiny. He said Rahiya Mutomboki and other militias seized the opportunity to massacre Rwandophones, and the FDLR reacted by massacring villagers who they suspected of supporting the Rahiya Mutomboki.
 
By contrast, he said the areas where the Congolese army has been fighting mutineers have not witnessed these kinds of massacres, although tens of thousands of people have been displaced by the fighting.

Jean Claude Katende, spokesman for the Congolese human rights group ASADHO, said his group condemns human rights violations by all groups in eastern Congo. But he says the local population had suffered at the hands of the FDLR.
 
He also said this kind of violence will continue in Congo until the Rwandan government makes more of an effort to settle its internal political problems.
 
In the past few days Congolese commentators have accused Rwanda of supporting the so-called M23 mutiny in the Congolese army by Rwandophone soldiers. They cite an internal U.N. report that 11 deserters from the mutiny said they had been recruited and trained in Rwanda and sent to fight in the Congo.
 
A U.N. spokesman, Penangnini Toure, said the U.N. report resulted from a routine interrogation of the 11 men who had presented themselves to the U.N. and asked to be repatriated to Rwanda.
 
"That’s all we reported and that’s where it stops. The U.N. did not produce a report saying that Rwanda is directly involved in what is happening in eastern Congo," said Toure.
 
He also denied claims in local media that the U.N. tried to cover up the report.