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Last Updated: Friday, 23 January, 2004, 14:19 GMT
Boat massacre in DR Congo
By Arnaud Zajtman
BBC, Kinshasa

Some 100 passengers on board a boat are reported to have been massacred by a group of ethnic-militiamen last week in north-east Democratic Republic of Congo.

The alleged incident happened last Friday in Ituri Province, on the shores of Lake Albert, near the border with Uganda.

UN soldiers in Bunia
Some 5,000 peacekeepers are in the Bunia area
But it is only in recent days that news of the massacre has filtered through to the regional capital, Bunia, some 60 kilometres to the south.

On Thursday, a UN investigation team was sent to a hospital where they met some of the survivors of the alleged massacre but it is only on Saturday that the team will arrive at the scene of the alleged atrocities.

UN military information officer Abu Thiam told me that until then the UN will not be in a position to confirm that the massacre has actually happened.

However, some survivors told the UN and the Congolese local authorities that a group of 20 Lendu armed combatants got on a boat which was carrying nearly 200 passengers, mainly traders and their families.

Witness tales

Three survivors, some of them wounded by bullets, told the investigating team that once the boat had docked, the militiamen had executed more than 100 men who were onboard.

According to the witnesses, some of whom gave detailed accounts on the UN radio in the Congo, many of the women and children who were on the boat have been abducted and used by the militiamen to transport goods looted from the traders.

They are still missing.

More than 50,000 people have lost their lives since the beginning of the Ituri inter-ethnic war in July 1999.

Since last September, about 5,000 UN soldiers have been deployed there.

They have managed to lower the scale of the violence but they still have delays in their deployment outside Bunia.

Both the UN and the Congolese government have failed in implementing a long-lasting peace in that province.

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