Ugandan authorities have fueled political and ethnic strife in eastern Congo with disastrous consequences for the local population, Human Rights Watch charged in a report released today.
(New York, March 28, 2001) Ugandan authorities have fueled political and
ethnic strife in eastern Congo with disastrous consequences for the
local population, Human Rights Watch charged in a report released today.
The fifty-page report, "Uganda in Eastern DRC: Fueling Political and
Ethnic Strife," documents how Ugandan authorities meddled in rivalries
among factions of the rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD). Some of
these quarrels degenerated into military skirmishes in which civilians
have been killed and injured.
The report shows how Ugandan soldiers intervened in a long-standing
dispute between Hema and Lendu peoples, in many cases lending firepower
to Hema, sometimes in return for payment. During more than two years of
Ugandan occupation, the Hema-Lendu war claimed more than 7,000 lives and
displaced an estimated 200,000 people.
Uganda has pulled some of its troops out in recent weeks, but not from
the areas most affected by the abuses described in the report.
"Uganda sent its troops into Congo supposedly to assure its own
security, but in the process, it has caused greater insecurity for its
unfortunate neighbors," said Alison Des Forges, Senior Advisor at the
Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. "Pulling out some of its troops
does not relieve Uganda of the responsibility for investigating and
punishing the soldiers who have been involved in these crimes."
Des Forges said that Congolese leaders, including the heads of political
factions and organizers of militias, have also violated the rights of
their fellow citizens in Ugandan-dominated zones. The Ugandans trained
local combatants who were recruited by rival political leaders on the
basis of personal or ethnic loyalty, and who were more likely to be used
for local advantage than in the war against the Congo government. Both
the Ugandans and leaders of the Congolese Rally for Democracy-Liberation
Movement (RCD-ML) recruited and trained children as combatants. In
August 2000 Uganda airlifted 163 children from Congo to Kampala for
"Uganda has repeatedly promised to end the use of child soldiers, yet
here it is openly teaching Congolese children to make war," said Des
Forges. "When does it plan to start making good on these promises?"
Congolese political leaders in the Ugandan-controlled region have
detained rivals, held them in inhumane conditions, and sometimes
tortured them. Ugandan soldiers have similarly abused Congolese whom
they have identified as opponents. Ugandan authorities in mid-2000
approved an alliance between RCD-ML leader Mbusa Nyamwisi and Mai-Mai, a
local militia hostile to foreign occupiers, and even arranged to provide
military training for them. Later, Ugandans rejected the arrangement and
began fighting the Mai-Mai. In subsequent conflicts,
Ugandan troops captured and summarily executed Mai-Mai combatants. They
also attacked local people thought to have aided the Mai-Mai, killing
civilians and laying waste their villages. Ugandan soldiers also backed
the RCD-National, supposedly another rebel political movement but
apparently really an operation to extract and market the rich mineral
resources of the Bafwasende area.
"Ugandan soldiers have blatantly exploited Congolese wealth for their
own benefit, and that of their superiors at home," said Des Forges. "In
competing for control of Congo's phenomenal resources, the Ugandans as
well as other parties to this war have committed countless atrocities
against the Congolese population." Uganda has been withdrawing some of
its troops from the front lines in the Congo, as required by the Lusaka
Accords of July 1999. Local groups in the Ugandan-controlled areas have
also pledged new efforts to resolve their conflicts peacefully.
"We welcome these promising signs of peace," said Des Forges, "but the
people of this region are saying that the end of war is not enough. They
ask for justice for the wrongs done them. Uganda must investigate the
reported misconduct of its troops. The international community,
generally silent about these abuses until now, must insist that Uganda
does in fact require accountability from its soldiers in the Congo."
The report, "Uganda in Eastern DRC: Fueling Political and Ethnic
Strife," can be found at http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/drc/