One of our Observers in the Democratic Republic of Congo shares a gruesome tale, along with photographs, of a massacre that took place in the night of May 13 in a village in the province of South Kivu, in the country’s east. Thirty-two people – including six children – were brutally murdered by a rebel militia during a three-hour killing spree that took place just three kilometres away from a UN peacekeepers’ base. Readers are warned that they may find the following very shocking.
The militia in question, which calls itself the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), was created in 2000. Its fighters split off from the Army for the Liberation of Rwanda, a rebel group largely composed of Hutu militiamen who played an active role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Because the FDLR is opposed to current Rwandan President Paul Kagame, an ethnic Tutsi, its fighters have settled in neighbouring DR Congo, where, they say, they are defending the Rwandan Hutus who took refuge there. Until 2003, they were backed by the DR Congo’s government, who needed extra fighters to tame another militia in the region of Kivu, the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD), which was backed by Rwanda and Uganda. The RCD later changed its name to the National Congress for the Defence of the People; these fighters are now being blamed for another rebellion wrecking havoc in the northern part of Kivu. Our Observers there have described this conflict in previous articles.
The Rwandan rebels of the FDLR have officially been declared outlaws by both DR Congo and Rwanda, who in 2009 signed a peace deal aimed at taming the various militias that have been causing chaos throughout the region for the past two decades.
Kamananga is a village located three kilometres from Bunyakiri, a town in the northern part of South Kivu, where the Monusco (the UN mission to DR Congo) has a base. On the morning after the massacre, Kamananga residents went to protest in front of the base, accusing the UN peacekeepers of failing to protect them from the FDLR fighters. Members of Raïa Mutomboki (in Swahili, “angry people”), an armed self-defence group that says it is fighting to protect the local population from the Rwandan rebels, were also present at the protest. When some of them started firing their guns, the UN troops fired into the air to disperse the crowd. Eleven of the troops were wounded. The Monusco’s spokesperson later responded to the villagers’ accusations, explaining to the French news agency AFP that the UN peacekeepers were not able to help stop the massacre because “by the time the news reached us, the FDRL had already committed their crime.”
This massacre, unfortunately, is not an isolated incident. During the month of May alone, Unicef has noted multiple killings in the region’s villages; the organisation says women and children are particularly targeted. Doctors Without Borders, meanwhile, says that since the beginning of April, they have treated more than 200 civilians suffering from wounds caused by bullets, machetes and fire in the Kivu region. The organisation says that this number is tiny compared to the scope of the massacres.
All the photos below were taken by our Observer, who arrived in Kamananga on the morning after the massacre.
“Bodies of women who had been raped, mutilated and then killed were everywhere”
Patrick (not his real name), 28, lives in North Kivu. He took photos of the victims of the Kamananga massacre. Due to safety concerns, he asked to stay anonymous.
When I learned what had happened, my uncle and I quickly drove to Kamananga, which is the village where I grew up. When we arrived, the houses were still burning and the bodies of women who had been raped, mutilated and then killed were strewn all over the place. I saw bodies everywhere, in ditches and in homes. Two people from my family were among the dead. What shocked me most was how many children were killed.“The massacre lasted from 3 am to 7 am”Those who were badly wounded were sent straight to Bakavu (the capital of South Kivu). I went to the closest hospital, in Bunyakiri, where I spoke to people with less severe wounds. They told me that men armed with machetes and knives had woken them up in the middle of the night. Everyone started running. Some managed to escape into the forest; the weaker ones - that is, women and children - were the first victims. The massacre lasted from 3 am to 7 am What they told me terrified me. All I can do now is pray to God.“Villagers believed that the UN troops let the Rwandan rebels kill”The people of Kamananga believed that the UN troops let the Rwandan rebels kill their friends and relatives. Militiamen from Raïa Mutomboki joined them to attack the UN base. I watched all this from a distance, because I heard gunfire.
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING IMAGES ARE VERY SHOCKING.
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Peggy Bruguière.