It’s been four years since DRC authorities issued an arrest warrant for a Mai Mai militia Leader accused of crimes against humanity. Nevertheless, he remains at large. Human Rights Watch has released – what it said – is new information about crimes committed by the militia.
The rights group says the NDC rebels -- commanded Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka -- are accused of killings, mass rape, mutilations and child abductions. It says the worst abuses occurred between August 2012 and November 2013 in and around Pinga – a town bordering the Walikale and Masisi territories.
In July of 2011, U.N. peacekeeping officials tried to arrest Sheka when he sought medical attention in Goma in North Kivu province. However, he escaped. Human Rights Watch says he was possibly “tipped-off by Congolese army personnel, who had a close relationship with him.”
Human Rights Watch’s senior Congo researcher Ida Sawyer said NDC attacks continue.She said capturing Sheka remains difficult.
“It’s partly been difficult because he’s operating in a very remote region and it’s difficult to find him. But it’s also the case that he has shifting alliances and at various times support from Congolese army officers and also support from individuals in Rwanda and alliances with other armed groups operating in Eastern Congo. And he’s been able to take advantage of this different support to help him evade capture over the years,” she said.
Sawyer described some of the crimes Sheka and his militia are accused of committing.
“Sheka’s group, the NDC, along with two other armed groups carried out a brutal mass rape and nearly 400 civilians were raped between July 30th and August 2nd 2010 in a series of 13 villages In Walikale territory. Since then Sheka’s troops have continued to carry out a number of vicious killings. And they often have cut off the body parts of those they kill and later parade the legs or heads or other body parts of the victims around town, chanting ethnic slurs.”
They’re also accused forcibly recruiting child soldiers and abducting civilians.
Sawyer said, “They’ve also abducted a number of women and girls, who they are holding as sex slaves – forcing them to be the wives of combatants. Dozens of these young girls, some as young as 12, are still being held by the group as sex slaves in the forests of Walikale.”
The list goes on.
“In one of the most brutal incidents in recent years, the NDC abducted 30 people, including 20 young school children from a primary school in Butemure village in Walikale territory. And they forced these young students to march through the forest for days and those who were too tired or weak were killed by the NDC fighters,” she said.
Human Rights Watch called on Congolese authorities and the U.N. mission to step-up efforts to arrest Sheka and bring him to justice. It also wants an investigation to learn which groups and individuals are supporting the NDC rebels.