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 Thursday, 9 January, 2003, 17:47 GMT
Congolese tell of 'appalling' abuse
Rebecca Kwekinai and her children in a camp north of Beni [pic: Tearfund]
Many have fled without any possessions

United Nations human rights investigators have interviewed more than 200 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo after allegations that rebel soldiers had committed widespread human rights violations.

People fleeing recent fighting near the north-eastern town of Beni have accused the soldiers of rape, arbitrary execution and cannibalism, according to the UN's peacekeeping mission and the relief agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

The UN says that although the fighting has now ended, more than 100,000 people are still too afraid to return to their homes.

The UN mission spokesperson in Kinshasa said that investigators were preparing a report that would be presented to the Security Council next week.

'Appalling stories'

For the past two weeks they have been hearing testimony from people fleeing the fighting that broke out between rival rebel factions in mid-December in the north-east.

Open in new window : War survivors
DR Congo's displaced generation

Patricia Tome said the displaced claimed rebels had committed rape on a massive scale, had kidnapped women and carried out arbitrary executions.

She said the investigators were now looking into reports of mass rape and of cannibalism.

Marie-Noelle Rodrigue, the MSF head of mission in Beni, told the BBC that many people fleeing the frontline had appalling stories to tell.

A Pygmy woman in neighbouring Central Africa Republic
The Pygmies say they have been targeted by the violence

These include the story of one woman raped just after giving birth, of a person forced to watch the execution of the rest of his family, and of prisoners forced to roast then eat human flesh.

According to MSF, many of the people making these allegations are Pygmies who have been forced to flee their forest homes for the first time ever in their lives.

Rebel leaders say they will open their own enquiry into the reports, which are also made by the Catholic bishop of the region.


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03 Jan 03 | Africa
30 Dec 02 | Africa
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