[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Great Lakes
Last Updated: Friday, 23 May, 2003, 17:41 GMT 18:41 UK
DR Congo pygmies appeal to UN
A pygmy
The pygmies have been hunted like animals
Pygmy representatives have asked the United Nations to set up a court to try government and rebel fighters from the Democratic Republic of Congo for acts of cannibalism against their people.

Sinafasi Makelo, a representative of Mbuti pygmies, told the UN's Indigenous People's Forum that during the four-year civil war his people had been hunted down and eaten.

This is nothing more, nothing less, than a crime against humanity
Sinafasi Makelo

"In living memory, we have seen cruelty, massacres, and genocide, but we have never seen human beings hunted down as though they were game animals," he said.

"Pygmies are being pursued in the forests. People have been eaten. This is nothing more, nothing less, than a crime against humanity."

More than 600,000 pygmies are believed to live in the DR Congo's vast forests, where they survive by hunting and gathering.

Both sides in the war regard them as "subhuman", and some say their flesh can confer magical powers.


UN human rights activists reported this year that rebels had carried out acts of cannibalism.

Some of the worst atrocities allegedly took place when the rebel Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) - which controls the northern DR Congo - tried to take the town of Mambasa from the rival Congolese Rally for Democracy last year.

Mr Makelo called on the forum to ask the UN Security Council to recognise cannibalism as a crime against humanity and an act of genocide.

A pygmy
The pygmies want justice
There have been allegations of cannibalism during the recent conflict between Hema and Lendu militia in the north-western Ituri region but a spokesman for the UN mission in Kinshasa said these were difficult to confirm.

At least 300 people are said to have died in the fighting.

A mass grave containing the remains of more than 30 men, women and children was found near the town of Bunia, UN officials said.

Church leaders and residents have accused Lendu militiamen of killing civilians, cutting open their chests, removing hearts, lungs and livers, and eating them.

UN investigation

Father Joseph Deneckere, a Belgian priest who has lived in the DR Congo since 1970, said that traditional superstitious beliefs, entrenched hatreds and attempts to settle old scores lay behind the atrocities, the Associated Press news agency reported.

"Some of the victims had their sexual organs missing after tribal fighters cut them off to use as charms," he said.

Tribal fighters had also been seen wandering around the bush with human organs "draped from their weapons".

UN officials have opened a formal investigation into the allegations.

Mass grave found in DR Congo
22 May 03  |  Africa

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific