DRC: UN Force Must Not Stand-By as Massacres Take Place
Amnesty International UK Media Director, Lesley Warner, said:
MONUC has a new, more robust mandate and it must use this to assure the civilian population that it will not stand by and watch people being massacred.'
After three months of the French-led force's presence in Bunia, the town is still divided into two distinct parts, according to the ethnic origins of their residents: in the South the Lendu population, and in the North and part of the town centre, the Hema population. Civilians have been lynched because of their apparent ethnic origin under the very noses of the original UN force.
On 1 August 2003, four onion-sellers in Bunia were kidnapped on the Avenue Kilo-moto in the Nguezi district and later executed. Terror and massacres continue to cause a mass exodus from villages not protected by the French-led force.
Lesley Warner continued:
'In order to meet the security challenge in Bunia and throughout the province of Ituri in general, the new MONUC force must first gain the confidence of the civilian population who currently do not know what tomorrow will bring and are crying out for protection and justice.'
Outside Bunia the town of Bogoro, formerly a tourist centre, today no longer exists. In one month of blind violence, it was practically erased from the map of DRC before any forces could protect the civilians. Half the territories of Jugu and Irumu have been decimated, pillaged and burned by armed groups of every leaning. One of these armed groups, the FAPC, still has the support of Uganda, despite the installation of a government of transition in Kinshasa. Amnesty International:
- welcomes the UN authorisation for the French-led force to support the deployment of MONUC troops until 15 September;
- hopes that both the letter and the spirit of the new MONUC mandate will be applied, not only in rapidly deploying security troops in and outside Bunia, but also in the territories which are not currently under its control;
- calls for the establishment of a civilian police force managed by MONUC in Bunia and, progressively throughout Ituri, to prevent physical attacks on unarmed civilians, theft and extortion of private property;
- calls for the establishment of a judicial mechanism to ensure that violations of civil and political rights are investigated and the suspected perpetrators of such violations brought to justice.
Child soldiers Amnesty International will publish a new report on child soldiers in DRC on Tuesday 9 September. Video footage / interviews available. Contact Sarah Green on 020 7814 6238 / 07721 398 984. Background The Multinational Force (Artemis) under French command mandated by the United Nations Security Council and despatched by the European Union was deployed at the beginning of June 2003 in Bunia, following the burning of the town by armed groups after the sudden withdrawal of the Ugandan occupying forces on 5 May 2003.
Consisting primarily of French troops, together with elements from other countries of the European Union and South Africa, the force's mandate is limited in terms of both time and territory.
The mandate does not extend beyond the town of Bunia, where inter-ethnic clashes, primarily between the Hema and Lendu, two of Ituri's minority communities, have intensified and, since 1999, have resulted in more than 50,000 deaths and hundreds and thousands of displaced people. Numerous pockets of resistance organised around armed elements of armed group, the UPC (Union of Congolese Patriots), are still very hostile to the troops involved in Operation Artemis, which has been generally accepted by the people. Since its deployment and, in particular, since the initiation of the operation 'Bunia ? a weapon-free town', attacks by armed elements against the contingent are commonplace. On 18 August 2003, in broad daylight, French troops came under fire from elements of the Hema militia as they were on security foot patrol at Miala in the northern area of the town of Bunia. They returned fire, killing three. This incident alone, two weeks before the end of the force's mandate, illustrates not only the precariousness of the security situation in Bunia and the surrounding area, but also more particularly the enormous challenge facing the new UN force. More information on the DRC ...