DR Congo

Special report on the events in Ituri, Jan 2002-Dec 2003 (S/2004/573)

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S/2004/573
I have the honour to transmit to you a report from the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, regarding the events which occurred in Ituri, in the north-eastern part of the country, from January 2002 to December 2003.

I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate my grave concern about the continuing human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in particular the impunity with regard to crimes committed against the citizens of that country. As the Security Council has noted in several of its resolutions and presidential statements pertaining to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, impunity must be brought to an end, and perpetrators of crimes such as those highlighted in the attached report brought to justice.

I should be grateful in you would make this letter and the report available to the members of the Security Council.

(Signed) Kofi A. Annan

Special report on the events in Ituri, January 2002-December 2003

I. Summary

1. The lturi district, located in the Orientale Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, currently has one of the world's worst - and for a long time largely ignored - human rights records. Based on the investigations carried out by MONUC and other human rights entities, it is estimated that 8.000 civilians. probably more. were deliberately killed or were the victims of indiscriminate use of force from January 2002 to December 2003. The exact number of female victims of rape or sexual slavery is impossible to estimate at this time. Countless women were abducted and became "war wives", while others were raped or sexually abused before being released. More than 600.000 civilians have been forced to flee their homes. Thousands of children aged from 7 to 17 were drawn forcibly or voluntarily into armed groups, placing their very lives at risk and depriving them of a childhood. In addition, entire villages ~ belonging to all the different ethnic groups - were destroyed, including health and education facilities. housing and other infrastructure.

2. These abuses have been carried out with total impunity by all lturi armed groups and several non-lturi groups (MLC, RCD. RCD-MI.., RCD-N). In addition, the pre-transition Government in Kinshasa and the Governments of Rwanda and Uganda all contributed to the massive abuses by arming. training and advising local armed groups at different times.

3. The European Union-led Interim Emergency Multinational Force (Operation Artemis), and then the MONUC lturi Brigade with a mandate from the Security Council under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, have been instrumental in reducing the intensity of the conflict and the capacity of the local groups to operate. However, ending the violence and abuses, bridging the gaps between communities to install and extend a lasting peace, and establishing structures to strengthen human rights protection and reduce the total impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators remain major challenges, which the international community must assist the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to address. Though there have been timid attempts to restore some kind of State presence in lturi through the deployment of a small group of judges and police, neither currently has the capacity to maintain law and order in the district. It is therefore of vital importance that MONlJC continues to have a Chapter VII mandate to ensure security.

4. There have long been tensions and conflict between the Hema and Lendu communities in the district, fuelled by bad governance. The latest conflict - which has provoked so many of the abuses - was sparked off by a particular land dispute in 1998 when some Hema consessionaires1 took advantage of the weakened State apparatus to illegally enlarge their estates to the detriment of neighbouring mostly Lendu agriculturalists.2 The agriculturalists revolted when law enforcement agents came to evict them and in response they tried to destroy the land of the Hema concessionaires. Initially starting to the north of Bunia, this violence gradually extended to the whole of lturi district. Moreover. while spreading through the district, the conflict quickly turned into a confrontation opposing the two communities, the Hema and the Lendu. This conflict would not have reached such a level of violence without the involvement of national Congolese players, as well as of foreign Governments. The Ugandan army, already present in lturi since late 1998, fuelled the conflict by initially supporting some Hema notables and allegedly bombed hundreds of Lendu villages. Some Lendu traditional authorities created self-defence units. Believing that a Hema conspiracy existed against them, the Lendu militias began attacking Hema villages solely on account of their ethnicity. They also benefited from external support to organize themselves, from either the Congolese (pre-transition Government, rebel movements) or individual Ugandan officers.

5. The conflict entered a new phase of violence at the end of 2001 with the intensification of ethnically targeted attacks on villages. including killings, torture, rape of civilians, looting of homes, and destruction of social infrastructure. When the Hema militia UPC took over Bunia, first in August 2002 and again in May 2003, they adopted an ethnic cleansing policy, to empty the town of its Lendu and Bira populations, as well as the "non-lturian" Nande community, which was a commercial rival to the Hema businessmen. Hundreds of Lendu villages were completely destroyed during attacks by Ugandan army helicopters together with Hema militia on the ground.

6. Different rebel faction leaders struggling for political power in lturi have continued to profit from the ethnic resentment originally created by the land dispute. A series of splits, from 1999 to mid-2003, have in fact resulted in Bunia, the capital of Ituri, being the stage for repeated power struggles and skirmishes. At each stage in the fragmentation of the rebel groups, new militias were recruited loyal to one or another commander or faction leader. Often half of the militias were children. They were deployed not only to fight each other but also to whip up insccurity in the countryside and seize strategic localities and commercial opportunities. Ugandan army commanders already present in Ituri, instead of trying to calm the situation, preferred to benefit from the situation and support alternately one side or the other3 according to their political and financial interests.

7. The chiefs of armed groups took over the roles traditionally held by administrators, businessmen, traditional chiefs and law enforcement officers. They appointed "public officers", collected local taxes, sold the natural resources of their area of control, arrested civilians, judged them and in some cases executed them. The competition for the control of natural resources by combatant forces, exacerbated by an almost constant political vacuum in the region, has been a major factor in prolonging the crisis in Ituri. Those resources have also been of continued interest to foreign business networks in the region. One source of revenue for rebel groups has been the sale of concessions to foreign businesses.

8. By the end of March 2004. at the time of finalization of this report, MONUC had been able to lessen the inter-ethnic conflict of Ituri, acting to enforce peace and to restore the rule of law. Since taking over from Operation Artemis on 1 September 2003, the MONUC Ituri Brigade has implemented its Chapter VII mandate by consolidating its positions in Bunia, carrying out search operations which resulted in the declaration of Bunia as a weapon-free zone. and establishing seven outposts, north, north-east, south and south-east of Bunia (Iga Barriere, Bogoro, Mongbwalu, Marabo, Tchomia, Mahagi and Kpandronia). MONUC continues to implement security measures such as patrolling and launching military operations in different parts of Ituri.

9. To reinforce the rule of law and ensure public order, MONUC has detained suspects including the Chief of Staff of FNI, Mathieu Ngudjolo. and several senior military personnel of UPC, including Aimable Saba Rafiki and Etienne Nembe. Those actions were taken given the lack of local judicial and security structures, including a functioning judiciary and prison facility. On 14 January, MONUC transported to Bunia 12 out of 20 judicial personnel appointed by the Transitional Government. The judges took their oath of office on 2 8 January 2004. thereby allowing them to work legally in Bunia. A minimum judicial capacity has thus been restored in Bunia.

10. However, since mid-January 2004, FNI and UPC, as well as FAPC, a militia located along the Ugandan border in Aru, have become increasingly aggressive towards MONUC and the civilian population. In mid-January 2004. as many as 200 civilians were killed in Gobu, located on the edge of Lake Albert. By the end of March 2004, MONUC was still investigating the incident with the aim of ascertaining the identity and affiliation of the perpetrators. This was the most serious mass killing since the events of Kachele in October 2003. After the incidents in Gobu, militias conducted several attacks on MONIIC aircraft and patrols, the most serious being the killing on 12 February of a MONUC military observer in an ambush by unidentified militia elements on a convoy of vehicles returning from a multidisciplinary investigation 20 km north-east of Bunia.

11. This report has been drafted by the MONUC Human Rights and Child Protection Sections. It examines more closely the background to the conflict and gives details of many cases of massacres and other abuses often committed during attacks on villages. It includes information about political killings, harassment of political opponents, and the recruitment and use of children in armed groups from January 2002 to December 2003. The report also highlights the total impunity with which the armed groups have committed these atrocities. It is not intended as a political analysis of the situation. and is by no means a complete record of abuses in the area, given the scale of violations and also the constraints on carrying out such investigations, including continuing security concerns.

Footnotes

1 The concessionaire is the person who rents a concession from the State. The concession is defined by law as a contract by which the State recognizes the right of an individual or organization, under conditions defined by law, to use a piece of land or a building belonging to the State. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, all land belongs to the State.

2 The first conflict erupted in the collectivité of Walendu Pitsi, located in Djugu territory

3 Ugandan authorities alternately supported and provided weapons to RCD-ML, MLC, RCD-N, UPC, PUSIC, FNI and FAPC.

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