Atrocities in Congo could be "genocide": UN report

Fri Aug 27, 2010 5:37am GMT

By David Lewis

DAKAR (Reuters) - Crimes committed by Rwanda's army and Congolese rebels in Congo during the 1990s could be classified as genocide, a leaked draft U.N. report says, a charge that will stir tensions between Kigali and the U.N.

A Congo expert said diplomats were wrangling over whether to include the highly sensitive genocide accusation in the final version of the document.

The report details crimes committed in the former Belgian colony between 1993 and 2003, a period that saw the fall of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and a five-year conflict involving six foreign armies, including Rwanda's Tutsi-led force. Millions of people died, most from hunger and disease rather than violence.

After quashing the 1994 genocide of 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda, Kigali's army invaded Congo, ostensibly to hunt down Hutu fighters who had taken part in the killings and then fled into the east of Congo, known then as Zaire.

In the process, Rwandan forces swept the Congolese AFDL rebels of Laurent Kabila to power in Congo. Both forces have been accused of a string of rights abuses against Hutu soldiers and civilians across the country.

"The systematic and widespread attacks (against Hutus in Congo) described ... reveal a number of damning elements that, if proven before a competent court, could be classified as crimes of genocide," said the report, seen by Reuters on Thursday.

"The extensive use of edged weapons ... and the systematic massacres of survivors after (Hutu) camps had been taken show that the numerous deaths cannot be attributed to the hazards of war or seen as equating to collateral damage."

France's Le Monde newspaper said Kigali had threatened to withdraw peacekeepers from Sudan over the charges, but Rwandan officials were not available for comment to Reuters.   Continued...

<p>Fighters from the FDLR rebel group, which is being hunted by the Rwandan and Congolese army, move through the forest deep in the bush of eastern Congo, February 6, 2009. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly</p>
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