Killings in the DRC: Mukwege on a crusade against impunity ten years later

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Kinshasa | With the Nobel Peace Prize winner Denis Mukwege, Congolese will demand justice this Thursday for the killings and rapes perpetrated for nearly 30 years in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of a shock report remained a dead letter.

Demonstrations are planned in some Congolese towns, including Bukavu, the stronghold of Dr. Mukgwege, for the 10 years of this United Nations investigation into “the most serious human rights violations” in the DRC (ex-Zaire) between 1993 and 2003.

The report proposed, among other things, “the establishment of an international criminal court for the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” recalls Dr. Mukwege in a column published by the French newspaper “Le Monde” dated Thursday.

“We regret that no initiative has been taken to date to apply these recommendations”, he adds in this forum co-signed with the former attorney general of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda. , Louise Arbor.

Justice is essential “to break the cycle of violence and instability,” says the Congolese gynecologist.

More than 1,300 people were still killed during the first half of 2020 in the three eastern provinces (Ituri, North and South Kivu), he recalls, citing the United Nations.

Doctor Mukwege regrets that former militiamen have been integrated into the regular forces during the demobilization programs of the armed groups.

“Promotions were granted to those who had to answer for their acts before national or international justice.”

The debate is extremely topical. President Félix Tshisekedi is reaching out to Congolese armed groups still active in the three eastern provinces.

Some have responded to his call, with a “cahier des charges” which often requires amnesty and the integration of their combatants into the regular army.

“We cannot continue to reward the killers. We must not reward crime (…) There must be some form of justice, ”said the representative of the United Nations in the DRC, the Algerian Leïla Zerrougui.

Buried for ten years in drawers, the United Nations report has become the weapon of war of gynecologist Denis Mukwege in his fight against impunity in his country.

“Killed in their bed”

This United Nations investigation “identified 617 violent incidents which could be qualified as” war crimes “,” crimes against humanity “or even” crimes of genocide “if the facts were brought to the attention of a competent court. », He recalls.

The famous gynecologist himself has his voice tied when he mentions the massacre of around thirty patients in the Lemera hospital near Bukavu on October 6, 1996.

“All those who could not escape were killed in their beds. The nurses who could not leave Lemera were also killed, ”he testifies in a video 23 years after the fact.

This massacre started one of the deadliest conflicts in the world since World War II.

An American NGO, International Rescue Committee, put forward the controversial figure of 5.4 million deaths between 1998 and 2007.

A record disputed by demographers but which marked the minds of many Congolese, convinced that the conflicts in the East have left “six million dead”.

The report cites the alleged perpetrators of each crime. They are among all the Congolese and foreign actors involved in the two Congo wars (1996-98, then 1998-2003).

There is the Congolese AFDL rebellion led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila, which seized power in May 1997 by overthrowing the routed regular forces of old Marshal Mobutu.

There are AFDL’s allies, Yoweri Museveni’s Uganda and Paul Kagame’s Rwanda, two leaders still in power in 2020.

After a reversal of alliance in August 1998, Rwanda and Uganda continued to control eastern DRC, either directly or through militias.

When it was published 10 years ago, the United Nations report was strongly denounced by Rwanda and Uganda.

Kigali’s position has hardly changed. “We cannot start from a contested draft report like this one to launch an international criminal court,” Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta said in an interview with “Jeune Afrique” on Wednesday.

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