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Rwandan rebels abuse Congolese civilians - UN report

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KINSHASA, 19 May 2005 (IRIN) - Rwandan Hutu rebels based in eastern Congo are responsible for hundreds of summary executions, rapes, beatings and hostage-taking of Congolese civilians in the territory of Walungu, South Kivu Province, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, MONUC, said on Wednesday in a report documenting the human rights violations.

"The 1,724 accusations of abuse are essentially against two groups of Rwandan combatants, Fernando Castanon, the head of the MONUC section of human rights, said.

He said one group is the Rwandais forces democratiques pour la liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) while the other one, known as the Rastas, consists of Rwandan Hutus and some Congolese.

The report is based on 405 confidential interviews taken from 12 to 29 April by a multidisciplinary team from MONUC. The alleged abuses took place from June 2004 to April 2005.

In instances of abductions, the combatants demanded payment of ransoms of up to US $200, Castanon said. He added that the abductions were systematic, and had served as an instrument to "terrorise civilians and as a principal source of financing the armed groups".

Some members of the armed groups are accused of having participated in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The head of the FDLR, Ignace Murwanashyaka, announced in April that his group was abandoning its war against the Rwandan government and that its 10,000 combatants, and their families, would return to Rwanda.

Castanon said that the security situation in Walungu had improved since the end of March because of MONUC and the Congolese army's joint military operations.


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