The ugly truth on crimes committed in Congo demands justice for the departed

On October 1st, 2010, the UN through its HCHR will publish a report on atrocities committed by military and militia forces in Democratic Republic of Congo between March 1993 and June 2003. The document is the result of a mapping exercise detailing the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

The report which is a 545 pages long document, describes in its Paragraph 512 some of the facts the experts found and which incriminate some of the forces involved. ‘The systematic attacks resulted in a very large number of victims, probably tens of thousands of members of the Hutu ethnic group, all nationalities combined. In the vast majority of cases reported, it was not a question of people killed unintentionally in the course of combat, but people targeted primarily by AFDL/APR/FAB [Burundian army] forces and executed in their hundreds, often with edged weapons. The majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who posed no threat to the attacking forces. Numerous serious attacks on the physical or psychological integrity of members of the group were also committed, with a very high number of Hutus shot, raped, burnt or beaten. Very large numbers of victims were forced to flee and travel long distances to escape their pursuers, who were trying to kill them. The hunt lasted for months, resulting in the deaths of an unknown number of people subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading living conditions, without access to food or medication. On several occasions, the humanitarian aid intended for them was deliberately blocked, in particular in Orientale Province, depriving them of assistance essential to their survival.’

This is the ugly truth on crimes committed in Congo that the world should not leave not thoroughly investigated and their perpetrators not punished. For many years, millions of voiceless Rwandans, Congolese and Burundians have called for justice for their relatives, compatriots and friends cruelly killed. But vested interests have for long worked and continue to lobby to keep the criminals off the hook. The sad reality is that leaving them prevail in the Great Lakes region has jeopardized the possibility of a sustainable development. Created situation of impunity has impacted negatively on many fronts where improvements have been postponed nearly forever. The state of   justice, economy, health, education, reconciliation, infrastructures is some times portrayed positively by the same interests who hide the reality on the ground to cover up their associates in the crimes.

On the same day that the UN report will be published citizens of the Great Lakes region will also remember the invasion of the Rwandan Patriotic Front from Uganda on October 1st 1990. It will be 20 years during which the region will have experienced assassination of presidents ( Melchior Ndagaye of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi, Juvenal Habyarimana, Laurent Desire Kabila of Democratic Republic of Congo), archbishops, more than 8 millions of dead, millions of refugees, disappearances, political assassinations, imprisonments of populations in tens of thousands, generalized oppression of civilians characterized by total lack of respect of fundamental human rights particularly in Rwanda.

Humanity that we all constitute should remember that not condemning and bringing perpetrators of these crimes in front of a tribunal makes us accomplices. Our silence about the need for justice for the victims would acknowledge victory for the criminals. Though it is a fact that international criminal tribunals are compromised by the US and its allies on the Security Council, justice will be served only when disinterested parties lead on seeking it.

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