DR Congo

DRC: Pygmy rights groups decry massacres, demand justice

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NAIROBI, 24 January (IRIN) - Organisations fighting for the rights of indigenous populations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have condemned the recent murders and cannibalism by rebel groups directed against Mbutis, otherwise known as pygmies, in the northeastern Orientale Province. One group, Amis des pygmees (Friends of the Pygmies), criticised the "complacency" of DRC politicians and human rights groups following documented reports of killings and cannibalism directed against Mbutis by soldiers of the Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC) and the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie-National (RCD-N) armed opposition groups.
"We have always been victims of discrimination and marginalisation by other groups that see us as sub-human beings," AFP quoted the group as saying on Thursday.

For its part, the Association nationale des pygmees du Congo has called upon the international community for inquiries to be carried out so that those identified as responsible for crimes against humanity be tried before the International Court of Justice.

Heritiers de la justice has made a similar appeal, asking that MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, RCD-N leader Roger Lumbala, and Thomas Lubanga, leader of the Bunia-based Union des patriotes congolais (UPC) be excluded from any future national transitional government of the DRC.

Meanwhile, the Programme d'assistance aux pygmees has released its own preliminary report detailing some of the horrors inflicted on indigenous and other populations, including instances of individuals being forced to eat cooked pieces of family members.

The UN Mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, confirmed on 15 January that rebel groups in the northeast of the country had been engaging in acts of cannibalism. MONUC said it had received witness reports of rebels belonging to the MLC and its ally, the RCD-N, being involved in cannibalism and forcible cannibalism in Mambasa and Mangina, respectively situated 50 km and 70 km northwest of Beni.

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