Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"We die again"

While the world's attention is diverted by Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza... the killing that has claimed as many as 4 million lives in Congo continues.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has seen more than its share of killing, but despite a new democratically elected government and a war that has been officially over for four years, the bloodshed and sexual violence continues. Yet news of the turmoil rarely seems to reach beyond Africa.

In the most recent incident, 18 civilians, including six children, were killed in a nighttime raid in three villages in the Walungu region of volatile eastern Congo on May 26.

Victims of the attack in Walungu
(Picture provided to Hot Zone by
photographer wishing to remain

Another 29 people were seriously wounded and 12 others kidnapped in the attack, according to a spokesman for United Nations peacekeeping forces there.

The UN blamed the massacre on a dozen men from the Rwandan Hutu rebel group known by its French acronym FDLR, or the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda.

The FDLR is made up of Hutu members of the former Rwanda Army (defeated by Tutsis now in charge in Rwanda) and the Interahamwe militia, a Hutu paramilitary organization which was largely responsible for planning and carrying out the 1994 Rwandan genocide and whose members fled into the jungles of Eastern Congo in the aftermath.

UN military officials believe there are at least 10,000 FDLR Hutu rebels in eastern Congo. The UN's largest peacekeeping force in the world, 17,000 troops, is based in the DRC with most in eastern Congo. Together with DRC government soldiers, they've conducted numerous offensives to root out the Rwandan Hutu rebels, but with marginal success so far.

Local news reports say the May 26 attackers in Walungu left notes on the bodies of those they killed, stating the massacre was in retaliation for a UN/DRC offensive against them that began in April. They also vowed to return.

Witnesses also say the attackers were wearing the uniforms of DRC government troops and killed many of their victims while they slept, using machetes, sticks, knives and guns. They fled when a UN patrol reportedly fired on them as they were entering the third village.

The FDLR's leader denies the rebels were responsible, saying the group has never attacked civilian populations. He's called for an investigation into the killings.

The United Nations is not capable of dealing with this type of evil. It lacks the political will and the military might. Those who think the new UN deployment to Darfur (assuming it actually happens) will solve the conflict there are sadly deluded.

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