reporters Tuesday at UN headquarters, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, following his return from a weekend Nairobi summit on the mounting
violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), said he is very
concerned about reports of looting and rape by Congolese soldiers.
MONUC peacekeeping spokesman,
Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Paul Dietrich, said government troops since Monday have
reportedly raped civilians near the town of Kanyabayonga, about 100 kilometers
north of the North Kivu provincial capital Goma. Because of the rampage, aid workers are hurriedly trying to reach
the nearby towns of Rutshuru and Kiwanja, where rebel military actions have
prompted an urgent need for food
and support for civilians trapped by the fighting. Human Rights Watch yesterday said its
observers in North Kivu have counted at least 50 civilian deaths from last
week's rebel massacre in Kiwanja, up from earlier estimates of 20 killed, and
the organization says that figure may still be rising. Human Rights Watch New York spokesman on the DRC, Steve Crawshaw, says that all sides must share blame
for the conflict's escalation.
on the Rwandan side are helping to destabilize the relationship with the rebel
group of Laurent Nkunda. At the same
time the abuses by the Congolese government, both in their failure to disarm
the Hutu group, the FDLR, and certainly the track record of the Congolese government
are very worrying. And the behavior of the Congolese forces. All of these are things where President
Kabila of Congo has a fierce responsibility.
And I think that certain things need to stop right now," he warned.
Secretary General Tuesday called for an immediate ceasefire in order to allow
aid to get through to at least 100-thousand displaced people trapped by the
fighting in eastern Congo. Human Rights
Watch's Steve Crawshaw says the outlook for restoring calm in the region is
we've already had a ceasefire being declared and then ignored. The situation of civilians on the ground is
at the moment catastrophic, and I think this needs to be addressed very, very
urgently indeed," he noted.
Rights Watch has observers on the ground in North Kivu around the town of
Kiwanja when rebel forces led by General Laurent Nkunda carried out reprisals
against civilians believed to be cooperating with his opponents. Crawshaw says reports of newly discovered
bodies in and around Kiwanja indicate that the final death toll may climb even
higher and that such acts warrant a full investigation by the International
very much hope that the crimes will be investigated by the International
Criminal Court. Accountability is
clearly needed. Originally there was
talk of 20. We documented certainly at
least 50, and that's also been now confirmed.
I think it very likely that numbers may in fact rise. And civilians who have fled are also placed
in great danger. People are being
ordered back to their homes and told that they must go back even when they
don't wish to do so. That's also absolutely in breach of international law," he
Crawshaw says Human Rights Watch
believes that stepped up international pressure on Rwandan President Paul
Kagame, who is reportedly linked as a supporter to Nkunda's rebel movement, can
help end the violence. He says that
Britain and the United States, who are particularly close to the Rwandan leader,
could get President Kagame to play what he called a "more constructive role" in
quelling the violence, "which at the moment we are not seeing."