Mass rape, cannibalism, dismemberment: UN team finds atrocities in DR Congo war

DR Congo has been ravaged by war since 2016. (Reuters pic)

GENEVA: Rebels and government troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo have committed atrocities including mass rape, cannibalism, and the dismemberment of civilians, according to testimony published on Tuesday by a team of UN human rights experts who said the world must pay heed.

The team investigating a conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo told the UN Human Rights Council last week that they suspected all sides were guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Their detailed 126-page report cataloged gruesome attacks committed in the conflict, which erupted in late 2016, involving the Kamwina Nsapu and Bana Mura militias and DR Congo’s armed forces, the FARDC.

The testimony included boys being forced to rape their mothers, little girls being told witchcraft would allow them to catch bullets, and women forced to choose gang-rape or death.

Lead investigator Bacre Waly Ndiaye told the Council that in one incident, at least 186 men and boys from a single village were beheaded by Kamwina Nsapu, many of whose members were children forced to fight, unarmed or wielding sticks, and were convinced that magic had made them invulnerable.

Many such child soldiers were killed when FARDC soldiers machine-gunned them indiscriminately, he said.

“The bodies were often buried in mass graves… or were sometimes piled in trucks by soldiers to be buried elsewhere.”

There were initially thought to be about 86 mass graves, but after investigating on the ground, the team suspected there may be hundreds, he said.

A Congolese government spokesman said that such information should be passed to magistrates in DR Congo.

“We were not aware of this and it is very curious. But it is clearly a politically motivated press campaign that has nothing to do with justice,” he said.