UN discovers possible DRC genocide
Paris - UN investigators have uncovered mass human rights abuses in the Democractic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the 1990s, including the possible genocide of Hutu refugees by Rwandan forces, a French newspaper reported on Thursday.
A leaked report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) details massacres, rapes and looting by forces from various countries in two wars that rocked the former Zaire between 1993 and 2003, Le Monde said.
The most serious claims target Rwanda, whose forces along with Congolese troops allegedly shot, clubbed and axed to death vast numbers of ethnic Hutu refugees in the DRC, including women, children and the elderly from 1996 to 1998.
The UN investigated massacres by these forces as long ago as 1997, according to a report received by AFP in 2005, but its efforts were disrupted by the subsequent outbreak of war and that report was never officially published.
'Tens of thousands'
The total number of victims of war crimes by various forces operating in the country, known since 1997 as the Democratic Republic of Congo, is "probably several tens of thousands," the UNHCR report said, according to the newspaper.
After the genocide of minority Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994, about a million Hutus fearing reprisals fled across the western border to the DRC. Rwandan Tutsi forces raided refugee camps there in search of Hutu genocide leaders.
Le Monde quoted the UNHCR report as saying that "the systematic and generalised attacks (against Hutus in Congo) have several damning aspects which, if proved by a competent court, could qualify as crimes of genocide."
"The use of non-firearms, mainly hammers, and the systematic massacres of survivors after camps were captured show that the number of dead is not attributable to the hazards of war," it quoted the UN report as saying.
The acts allegedly involved a coalition of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (APR) of Tutsis and a Congolese force, the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (AFDL), led by Laurent-Desire Kabila.
In the first of the two wars, between 1996 and 1998, the AFDL, supported by the APR, ousted the late dictator of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko.
The UN alleged in the unpublished 1997 report seen by AFP that its investigations at that time were obstructed by the administration of Laurent-Desire Kabila - father of the current President Joseph Kabila.
After the elder Kabila toppled Mobutu, a second war raged from 1998 to 2003.
The genocide allegations were among some of "the most serious violations of human rights and international law" according to the report, which accuses forces from several other neighbouring countries of crimes over the 10 years.
Citing unnamed sources, Le Monde said Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who led the APR in its successful campaign to oust the Hutu administration in Kigali after the 1994 genocide, had fought to cover up the report, threatening to withdraw Rwandan troops from UN peacekeeping missions.
The daily cited unnamed Rwandan sources dismissing the allegations as "absurd".
The UN report is due to be published in September, the newspaper said.
The UNHCR spokesperson in Geneva, Rupert Colville, said the newspaper had "the wrong version of the report," having obtained an early draft which "has gone through changes". He would not comment on the details reported by Le Monde.
"It's only a draft from about two months ago and the proper final version will come up very soon," Colville said.
Le Monde cited unnamed Congolese sources as saying that some of the people involved in the alleged abuses still held positions of power in the country.