Congolese soldiers desecrate rebel corpses

 
 
Since Sunday, the Congolese army and the M23 rebel movement have been engaged in fighting near Goma, in the northern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Several photos show Congolese soldiers defiling rebel corpses.
 
Since hostilities started up again, 130 people have been killed: 120 rebels and 10 army soldiers, according to the Congolese authorities. Fighting broke out in Mutaho, about a dozen kilometres north of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, and has been ongoing ever since. The Monusco, the United Nations’ armed force in the area, has not as of yet intervened.
 
DR Congo, which has gone through two wars in the last two decades, is seeing a new cycle of violence since a group of mutinied soldiers, the M23, launched an offensive in April 2012 against the Congolese army. The M23 is largely composed of rebels who speak the Rwandan language of Kinyarwanda. Following their integration into the army in 2009, they decided to mutiny. Most of the combats have taken place in North Kivu, an area of high strategic value because of its considerable mineral wealth (gold, cassiterite, coltan, and oil).
 
The Congolese government has accused Uganda and Rwanda of supporting the rebellion with soldiers and ammunition, an accusation both countries deny.
Contributors

“I saw a soldier kicking a corpse, saying ‘Go back to Rwanda’”

Alfred (not his real name) was near the front lines on Tuesday. For safety reasons, he prefers to remain anonymous.
 
On Tuesday around noon, I went close to the front line in Kanyarushinya District, where you could see rockets and hear gunfire.
 
Photo by Simone Schlindwein, published on Twitter.
 
On the road to Kibati, after Kanyarushinya, I saw soldiers standing around two rebel corpses. The fighters had been killed by gunfire a little ways from there. Some soldiers said that they had checked to see whether they were uncircumcised, because according to them, that would prove they were indeed from Rwanda [Editor’s note: In fact, in Rwanda, many men are today circumcised as a result of AIDS prevention programs]. Later that afternoon, I saw a photo of a corpse being abused with shell casings [Editor’s note: the photo was taken by journalist Simone Schlindwein earlier that morning and posted to Twitter. She told FRANCE 24 that the Congolese solders were using the shell casings to crush the corpse’s genitals]. The corpse in the picture is the same one as the half-naked one that I took a picture of a little later. I also recognize the policeman with the ammunition belt at the centre of the picture.
 
 
I then saw one of the soldiers spanking a corpse while saying: “Go back to Rwanda and leave us alone”. The chiefs ordered the soldiers to bury the corpses, but then I heard them whispering: “The Red Cross paramedics will do it”.
 
I also saw three war prisoners, including one with a gunshot wound whom the soldiers were going to take for medical treatment.
 
There is a MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DR Congo] base in a district near Kanyarushinya. However, a day earlier, young pro-army supporters had chased away MONUSCO troops who were trying to approach the front line. They don’t want the MONUSCO to intervene because they want the army to crush the rebellion. They did not let any United Nations vehicles approach the combat zones.
 
This mistreatment of corpses is not frequent occurrence; this is an isolated case. The tensions were running so high in the last few days near the front lines that I imagine that all kinds of atrocities could have taken place.
 
I do not know whether the M23 rebels are doing similar things on their side. But what I do know is that when they entered Goma in November 2012, they left Congolese army corpses lying in the city streets for days.
 

The Congolese army says these are ‘isolated cases’

 
A Congolese army spokesperson in North Kivu, contacted by FRANCE 24 late Wednesday, said:
 
“We are currently unaware of this incident. There are indeed many bodies near the front line that we request that the Red Cross retrieve. Prisoners are being treated well.
 
It is possible that in isolated cases, soldiers under high stress from the combat committed abuses. But it in no case could this be the result of an official order; quite to the contrary, officers have been doing their best to deal with such uncontrolled reactions. We condemn these acts.”

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