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New Videos Appear to Show Congolese Soldiers Shooting Civilians

Skulls suspected of belonging to victims of combat between soldiers and a rebel militia in Kasai-Central Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo.


KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo — The emergence on Monday of several videos that appear to show uniformed soldiers shooting Congolese civilians has added urgency to calls for an international investigation of recently discovered mass graves in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Last week, the Congolese military’s auditor general announced that seven officers had been arrested and charged with war crimes after a video surfaced last month depicting soldiers shooting a group of civilians in Kasai-Central Province, a massacre that left at least 13 dead.

Now at least five new videos that appear to show members of Congo’s military shooting civilians are circulating on social networking platforms.

Amid mounting accusations of violence against civilians, and the discovery of 10 mass graves dug in January and February in Kasai-Central, the chief of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo urged the United Nations Security Council this week to press the government to open an investigation into possible rights violations.

The chief of the mission, Maman Sambo Sidikou, urged Congo’s government on Tuesday to investigate the recent reports “to ensure that the perpetrators of these acts are held fully accountable and that justice is done,” according to Charles Bambara, Mr. Sidikou’s spokesman.

In Congo, elected officials and rights advocates are calling for an international investigation. On Wednesday, Claudel André Lubaya, a member of Parliament representing Kasai-Central, said an independent international panel was needed to investigate the eight mass graves in his province, “as well as the possibility of other mass graves in all areas where clashes have been reported.”

Jonas Kabiena, the national coordinator of a network called the New Congolese Civil Society, also called for an international inquiry and said on Wednesday, “We condemn the excessive use of force against populations without means of defense.”

The Congolese Army has been carrying out operations against a militia in the region. Fighting between soldiers and rebels has left hundreds dead and displaced hundreds of thousands of people since August.

A government spokesman, Lambert Mende, told Reuters this week that the bodies in the mass graves were those of militia fighters, and that the group’s fighters, not the army, had buried them. The government denies that its soldiers have used disproportionate force against the often lightly armed fighters. Militia members could not be reached for comment, Reuters said.

Kasai-Central Province is volatile, with frequent clashes despite the presence of United Nations peacekeepers. This month, two United Nations officials, an American and a Swede, were among six people abducted in the area.

On Saturday, the United Nations mission in Kinshasa, the Congolese capital, released a statement expressing concern about reports of renewed fighting and restrictions on the movements of its peacekeeping forces.

In response to that statement, the government angrily criticized the United Nations mission on Tuesday for making “imprecise allegations” that hampered “the discovery of the truth.”

But Mr. Lubaya said the inaction of provincial and national officials regarding the mass graves amounted to contempt for the victims, their families and the nation.

He added that an investigation was needed to determine who had been killed and how, adding that the victims should be given a dignified burial.


(c) 2017 The New York Times

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