|Congo/Zaire: U.N. team investigating massacres withdrawn||More information|
|The United Nations on October 1
decided to withdraw a team sent which it sent to Congo/Zaire to investigate
allegations of multiple massacres of refugees committed by President Kabila's
Officially, the U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was calling three leaders of the team for 'consultations' and until the Kabila government's policy was 'clarified'. The move followed reports that Kabila was about to expel the team. Twenty forensic experts are staying in Kinshasa for the time being.
While the President was officially reassuring Mr Annan that the team would be allowed to enter the country's interior, the government was doing all it could to stop the investigation.
Kabila came to power in May after a rebellion against the government of the late Mobutu Sese Seko. His forces were led by officers from the Banyamulenge ethnic group, Tutsis who emigrated from Rwanda some 200 years ago. There were many reports of soldiers from the mainly Tutsi Rwandan army helping the rebels and allegations of massacres of Hutu refugees who had escaped to Zaire after the 1994 genocide, in which Hutu extremists killed hundreds of thousands of Tutsis. Some 200,000 refugees 'disappeared' from eastern Zaire while it was under the control of Kabila's forces.
Rwanda and other neighbouring countries that have been suspected of helping Kabila's rebellion are thought to be putting pressure on him to stop the U.N. investigation. They claim the investigation is an attempt by Western nations to destabilise the new government. One minister has singled out France and accused it of trying to deflect attention from its involvement in training Hutu hardliners involved in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
The President himself has insisted that any genocide investigation will also report on alleged atrocities under the Mobutu government but will not look into any murders that took place after May 17, 1997, the day Kabila took power. The Congolese government expects the U.N. team to determine how many of the victims were 'genuine refugees', as opposed to Hutu militiamen and soldiers responsible for the 1994 genocide. Many of the militiamen and soldiers fled into eastern Congo to escape reprisals and hid among the refugees, using them as human shields.
These and other conditions put by Kabila have stopped the investigation from actually starting. In early July Kabila announced he would deny entry to Roberto Garreton, the respected Chilean human rights lawyer heading the U.N. probe. Annan took Garreton off the case but Kabila was not happy. He stated that he would not deal with Garreton's replacement, a retired judge from Togo. He refused to issue visas to security guards for the investigating team, insisting instead that they travel with government "facilitators," which would cost more than $16,000 a day!. Travel agents inside Congo were ordered not to sell the investigators plane tickets for trips within the country.
On the same day that the team leaders were withdrawn, the Congolese Foreign Minister Bizima Karaha told the U.N. General Assembly that his government would do 'anything in our power' to help the team carry out its mission!
The United States and European nations have threatened to withhold economic aid if Kabila does not cooperate with the team.
|UN withdraws Congo
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