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Army, rebels main suspects of looting, stealing - MONUC says

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KINSHASA, 3 Mar 2005 (IRIN) - Looting, stealing and burning of villages in North Kivu, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, was carried out by armed militias and by members of the newly integrated national army. This was the result of a special inquiry of the UN Mission in the DRC, or MONUC, which was published on 24 February.

"The MONUC special inquiry confirmed that acts of large-scale systematic looting and stealing were committed by all parties following the fighting in Kanyabayonga from 12 to 15 December 2004," Sonia Bakar, MONUC's officer-in-charge for special inquires into human rights violations, told IRIN.

The inquiry investigated violations that were committed from mid-December 2004 to the end of January 2005 and took place in Masisi, Rutshuru, Walika and Lubero, in the territory of Lubero, 180 km north of Goma.

Members of the former Armee de liberation du Congo, the armed wing of Jean-Pierre Bemba's Mouvement de liberation conggolais; the ex-Armee patriotiques Congolaise, the armed branch of the Rassemblement Congolais pour la democratie-Kisangani/mouvement de liberation; and those of the former regular national army under the late President Laurent Kabila, the Forces armees congolaises; were found to have been stealing and looting during the fighting, Bakar said.

The special inquiry team also accused the traditional Mayi-Mayi militia of the same crimes.

Since the signing of a global peace accord on 27 December 2003 in South Africa, all the former rebel movements have become part of the transitional government. Each of them kept their own militiamen on standby for the future integration into the national army, the Forces armee de la republique democratique du congo.

In December 2004, 10,000 men of the various rebel movements were joined and sent to North Kivu to fight against the Armee nationale congolaise (ANC), the armed segment of the former rebel Rassemblement Congolaise pour la democratie-Goma movement; which is also part of the transitional government.

MONUC documented at least 55 cases in which soldiers of the national army committed violations. In February, a Congolese military court convicted 29 of them of systematic murder, rape, looting and disobedience.

"But the number of culprits is definitely much higher than the number of those who were judged," Bakar said.

She also expressed doubts about the procedure and fairness of the trial.

The inquiry also brought to light the illegal occupation of houses by commandos of the 43rd Brigade of the national army in Kaseghe and surrounding areas. The soldiers also stole the harvests of the local population.

"When their troops controlled Kirumba, Kayna and Kanyabayonga, members of the opposing ex-ANC also engaged in looting and the destruction of infrastructure," Bakar said. "The ex-ANC used rape as a means to terrorise the civilian population."

According to Bakar, 81 cases of rape by ex-ANC men were documented.

The long list of human rights violations gathered by the special MONUC inquiry also lists the killing of at least 30 Nande civilians by ex-RCD-Goma troops in revenge for the killing of three of their men by unidentified Mayi-Mayi who are led by a Nande. In Kibirizi, 33 cases of rape were committed by ex-RCD-Goma troops, according to the inquiry.

"Until today, none of those who are presumed guilty have met justice," Bakar said.


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