DR Congo

DR Congo: MONUC team carries out preliminary investigation into deaths of civilians at Kiwanja

News and Press Release
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A multidisciplinary team from the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo has carried out an initial investigation into the deaths of civilians in Kiwanja. Several fatalities were reported after fighting in the town between combatants from the CNDP (Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple) and Mayi Mayi elements from the movement known as PARECO. Kiwanja is situated two kilometres north of Rutshuru and 65 kilometres to the north of Goma. The fighting took place between 4th and 6th November.

The MONUC team saw no Mayi Mayi fighters in Kiwanja. It did however see armed elements from CNDP. Kiwanja was virtually empty and some five thousand refugees had found shelter at MONUC's mobile base in Kiwanja, which has 138 peacekeepers.

The investigation team from MONUC received credible reports of the deaths of a large number of civilians both during the fighting and the day after. Some witnesses described incidents in which civilians lost their lives when PARECO elements tried to retake Kiwanja from the CNDP last Tuesday and the counter offensive by CNDP the next day, which led to PARECO's withdrawal. The number of civilian deaths can not be established definitively.

The team also received credible reports that some civilians were targetted with reprisal attacks after Mayi Mayi forces abandoned Kiwanja to the CNDP on November 5th. MONUC visited 11 burial sites that witnesses said contained 26 bodies of combatants and civilians. Some sources gave a higher number for civilian deaths but this is unconfirmed.

The information is based on the preliminary inquiry and further investigation is needed. For now, it's impossible to establish the exact number of civilian deaths. It is clear that serious human rights violations took place in Kiwanja between 4th and 6th November. UN Peacekeepers and several witnesses reported that some of the combatants were wearing civilian clothes.

UN Peacekeepers from the Kiwanja base continued their patrols between the 4th and 6th November despite fighting involving heavy weapons between the combatants.

MONUC patrols rescued 15 UN staff and other humanitarian workers trapped in the fighting, as well as trying to find out what happened to missing civilians, some of whom had been taken hostage. When they tried to approach Mayi Mayi troops to try and mediate, the peacekeepers were fired on and had to open fire in self-defence.

The exchanges of heavy weapons fire between the belligerents forced MONUC troops to withdraw to their base, where they positioned their armoured vehicles to protect people displaced by the fighting who had gathered around their position. The UN base was caught in the cross fire and took some direct hits. The peackeepers have carried on patrolling in Kiwanja and its vicinity. Since November 5th, 10 patrols a day have been carried out made up of between 15 and 20 Blue Helmets. Three patrols have also been carried out in Mabenga, Ruwindi, and Kinyandoni.