"A MONUC team has started the investigations [in the area] where 80,000 to 120,000 people are displaced," Patricia Tome, MONUC's chief of public information, told reporters in the capital, Kinshasa.
The Bishop of Beni-Butembo, Monsignor Melchisedec Sikuli Paluku, and human rights activists have accused the Mouvement pour la liberation du Congo (MLC), led by Jean-Pierre Bemba, and its ally, the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie-National (RCD-N) of practising cannibalism.
"Internally displaced people have reported that [the rebels] have eaten pygmies and forced prisoners to eat their own ears, big toes and other body parts," Sikuli said.
Investigators have already interviewed 200 displaced people. Tome said those interviewed were mostly rape victims, those whose properties were looted, those whose animals were slaughtered, and witnesses to summary and extrajudicial executions. However, she said, the investigators had not yet uncovered "precise information" indicating cannibalism. The outcome of the investigation would be sent to the UN Security Council.
"Mbusa Nyamwisi [leader of the RCD-Kisangani-Mouvement de Liberation [RCD-K/ML] has promised to hunt for those responsible for these violation, and Jean-Pierre Bemba has promised to punish those responsible," Tome said.
The MLC and the RCD-N resumed fighting against the RCD-K-ML a day after signing an UN-sponsored ceasefire accord in the northwestern town of Gbadolite on 30 December. The renewed fighting has caused nearly 130,000 people to flee.
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