UN dispatches fact-finding mission after Kishishe massacre

AA / Kinshasa / Pascal Mulegwa

The United Nations has sent a team of investigators to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo where authorities claim to have counted more than 270 dead following a massacre committed in a locality under the control of M23 rebels, learned Anadolu Agency from a UN source and Kishishe civil society.

According to a senior UN official, the team of the United Nations joint human rights office (BCNDUH) supported by the United Nations mission in the country (MONUSCO) has sent investigators “to conduct a preliminary investigation into the violence in Kishishe”, a locality in Rutshuru territory, most of which has been controlled by M23 rebels for several months.

“Our investigators are currently on site. They interact with local authorities and conduct interviews with witnesses and victims,” he told Anadolu Agency, on condition of anonymity.

He explained that “it is on the basis of this that we will know if there were indeed massacres, if the victims were buried in mass graves or if there is exaggeration in various communications”.

Contacted by Anadolu Agency, Jean Robert Sengoma, from Kishishe’s civil society nucleus, confirmed the presence of investigators “came in MONUSCO vehicles after negotiations with M23”.

“We are saying what we know, what we have experienced, but it is not reassuring because many witnesses fear reprisals. You imagine that after the massacre on November 28 and 29, the rebels asked us to bury our relatives in mass graves,” he said.

The Congolese government, which accuses the Rwandan army of supporting the rebels with troops and logistics, announced the death on November 29 of 272 inhabitants of Kishishe, some of whom were in an Adventist church and a hospital.

Children are also among the victims. The rebels have denied the facts, accusing the government of propaganda against a backdrop of false information “to attract sympathy”.

The government has ordered an investigation. The Congolese Minister of Justice, Rose Mutombo, has announced to seize the International Criminal Court for an investigation and prosecution.

After major offensives marked by the capture of important cities and localities in the territory of Ritshuru in the province of North Kivu in March and November, the rebels announced on Tuesday that they wanted to withdraw from the conquered positions. In return, they are asking for a “direct” dialogue with Kinshasa in order to “find a lasting solution to the root causes of the conflict in the East”.

Kinshasa accuses Kigali of supporting the M23, which the Rwandan authorities deny.

The M23 is a former rebellion defeated in 2013, but which took up arms again at the end of last year, accusing Kinshasa of not respecting the peace agreements.

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