GENEVA - A U.N. investigation finds all armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Kasai province are guilty of mass atrocities, yet very few perpetrators are brought to justice.
A team of international experts on the Kasai province has submitted this and other findings to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva Tuesday.
More than 500 victims and other sources were interviewed by the team of experts during its eight-month investigation into violence in the Kasai province. Team leader Bacre Waly Ndiaye says he and his colleagues are shocked by the catastrophic human rights situation.
He says since violence erupted in Kasai in August 2016, the Democratic Republic of Congo security forces, the anti-government militia Kamiuna Nsapu and the government-allied militia Bana Mura have all committed many atrocities.
“These atrocities include murders, mutilations, rapes and other forms of sexual violence. It is our view that some of the acts of aggression committed by the FARDC [Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo] and these other groups constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.”
Ndiaye says the team was struck by the magnitude and brutality of the crimes committed by all of those involved in the Kasai crisis. He says everyone has been affected, but children have been especially hard hit, both as victims and perpetrators of the crimes.
“The Kamiuna Nsapu militia massively recruited children. Children were often forced to join them. They were often very young, and they were used on the front line. Often, they went into battle actually unarmed or armed only with sticks ... the DRC’s armed forces ... were equipped with automatic weapons, and they shot without warning and often used disproportionate force,” Ndiaye said.
The investigators say impunity is a serious problem and those guilty of crimes are rarely prosecuted. The DRC’s minister of human rights, Marie-Ange Mushobekwa, disagrees. She says three-quarters of police officers and soldiers guilty of crimes have been arrested.
She says her government does not reject the investigators’ report out of hand. But she says the work of the team was done hastily, what makes some of its findings doubtful. While agreeing that some security force members may be guilty of crimes, she says most have been committed by those connected to the Kamiuna Nsapu, which she calls a terrorist group.