Slaughter in Kasai: Crimes against humanity perpetrated to create chaos

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In July 2017, FIDH and its member organisations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) conducted a fact-finding mission in Angola to gather testimonies from Congolese refugees who had fled the slaughter perpetrated in the Kamonia territory in the Kasai province. The harrowing testimonies published today reveal the scale and seriousness of the crimes committed against the civilian population by the Congolese defence and security forces and their auxiliaries, the militia known as Bana Mura. Their level of organisation and planning reveals a deliberate strategy of terror and destruction, which led to crimes against humanity. The violence was unleashed in response to an uprising of a local militia, Kamuina Nsapu, which had itself perpetrated serious abuses. With the elections repeatedly being postponed in the DRC, the atrocities committed in Kasai are part of a recurring scheme of Joseph Kabila’s regime to mobilise tension and violence in order to retain power through chaos and diversion.

Villages destroyed by heavy artillery, attacks on hospitals and places of worship, executions, torture and mutilation, sexual violence, looting, arbitrary arrests and detention. The testimonies gathered from the Congolese refugees in Angola by the FIDH team illustrate the ordeal to which the civilian population in Kamonia was subjected to for at least five months.

The report (only available in French) describes the abuses perpetrated in a dozen villages. Particular reference is made to the massacre committed on April 24, 2017, in the village of Cinq, situated a few kilometres from the border of Angola, which had at the time a population of around 10,000. Egged on and supported by the Congolese army and police, the Bana Mura militia descended on the village with the purpose of eliminating the civilian population, mostly belonging to the Luba ethnic group. The attack led to hundreds of deaths, including many women and children, mostly executed by gunfire, machete, or burned alive. During the attack on the Cinq hospital, over a hundred patients, including pregnant women, were killed, along with members of the medical staff.

Many survivors fled through the bush. Several hundred were registered by the United Nations agency for refugees (HCR), having reached Angola after a terrifying escape, pursued right up to the border by the militia. Among them were many children suffering from machete wounds.

According to the testimonies gathered by the FIDH team and information received from local sources, in particular Congolese human rights organisations, other villages were subjected to similar acts of violence between March and August 2017. Our organisations have compiled a list of around twenty other villages where such attacks have taken place. The report includes the testimony of some of the survivors.

The cruelty of the abuses leaves little doubt as to the aim pursued: to terrorise, destroy and force the Luba populations to flee, accused of complicity in the crimes committed by the Kamuina Nsapu militia and of supporting the opposition to Joseph Kabila’s regime.

The last part of the FIDH report describes how the crimes committed on the Kamonia territory were planned, directed and also actually committed by Congolese State agents, along with their Bana Mura militia auxiliaries, whom they helped to structure and arm. Our organisations have in particular drawn up a list of at least 50 names of persons suspected of crimes committed in the area. The list includes members of the army, the police and intelligence services, of the Bana Mura militia, local traditional chiefs, representatives of the presidential majority and Congolese government officials. The list, which is held confidentially, can be communicated to any commission of enquiry or judicial body charged with an independent and impartial investigation into the crimes committed on the Kamonia territory, and with determining the criminal liability of their authors, or the responsibility of the Congolese State.

FIDH and its member organisations in DRC call on the Congolese authorities to put an end immediately to the serious human rights violations committed in Kasai, and to carry out independent and impartial investigations into the crimes described in the present report in order to bring those responsible to justice, to grant reparations to the victims, and to end impunity and the repetition of the crimes.

Context :

On August 12, 2016, the traditional Kamunia Nsapu chief, Jean-Pierre Mpandi, was assassinated by the Congolese armed forces (FARDC). Although their arms were rudimentary, often just bits of wood and knives, the Kamuina Nsapu militia rose up and attacked the representatives, the edifices and the symbols of the central government. They were accused of crimes and abuses, in particular the forced enrolment of child soldiers; they carried out summary executions, often by beheading. The attacks started in Kananga (central Kasai), but soon spread to the neighbouring provinces (including Kasai). The repression by the defence and security forces was excessive, leading to a large number of summary executions. In September 2017, the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights considered that the situation in the Kasai provinces was still one of the worst human rights crises in the world. At least 3,383 persons were killed, according to the Catholic Church, over 87 mass graves were discovered; at least 1.4 million people, including almost 600,000 children, were forced to find refuge in neighbouring provinces, and nearly 30,000 others fled to Angola. These figures are conservative estimates, and it would seem that the acts of violence were committed on an even larger scale.

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