Amnesty International Report 2002 - Democratic Republic of Congo

Covering events from January-December 2001

Democratic Republic of the Congo
Head of state and government:
Joseph Kabila (replaced Laurent-Désiré Kabila in January)
Capital: Kinshasa
Population: 52.5 million
Official languages: French, Kikongo, Kiswahili, Lingala, Tshiluba
Death penalty: retentionist
2001 treaty ratifications/signatures: Optional Protocol to the UN Children's Convention on the involvement of children in armed conflict

There was a significant reduction in fighting between the main protagonists in the armed conflict, although it continued sporadically between factions of armed political groups. Fewer unarmed civilians were reported killed than in previous years. As many as two million people remained displaced within the country and thousands fled to neighbouring states. Torture and ill-treatment were widespread. No executions were known to have taken place, but at least 13 death sentences were passed and more than 70 prisoners remained on death row.


President Laurent-Désiré Kabila was assassinated in January and was replaced by his son, Joseph Kabila. The new President announced a commitment to implement the 1999 Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement, including the holding of the Inter-Congolese Dialogue – talks involving the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), leaders of armed and unarmed political groups, and representatives of civil society – to return the country to democratic rule.

By the end of the year, the main protagonists had withdrawn their forces from frontline positions under the supervision of UN cease-fire monitors, but sporadic outbreaks of fighting between factions of armed political groups continued. Preparatory talks in August in Gaborone, Botswana, between some of the armed political groups, political parties and civil society had not led to substantive talks by the end of 2001. Uganda repatriated most of its forces and other foreign governments said they had withdrawn troops from the DRC. However, in December Rwanda was reported to be reinforcing its forces, including by recruiting children, in Oriental, South-Kivu and Katanga provinces. The DRC government continued to be supported by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, while armed political groups opposed to the DRC government continued to receive support from Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.

In eastern DRC fighting continued throughout 2001; on one side were the Goma-based faction of the Rassemblement congolais pour la démocratie (RCD-Goma), Congolese Rally for Democracy, the RCD-Mouvement de Libération (RCD-ML), Movement of Liberation, and the Mouvement pour la libération du Congo (MLC), Movement for the Liberation of Congo, and forces of the governments of Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda; on the other side were armed groups opposed to the three governments and not signatories to the Lusaka Agreement, including the Congolese mayi-mayi, and Burundian and Rwandese armed political groups widely believed to be supported by the DRC government. A coalition between the RCD-ML and the MLC, formed in April with Uganda's support, fell apart, resulting in clashes and further killings of civilians. In September, the DRC government announced that it was demobilizing several thousand Rwandese Hutu combatants in southeastern DRC.

Civilians continued to be extrajudicially executed and subjected to torture, including rape, by all sides. An international humanitarian organization, the International Rescue Committee, estimated that as many as 2.5 million civilians had been killed or died from hunger and disease as a consequence of the conflict since August 1998. By the end of 2001 as many as two million people were internally displaced and facing starvation, unable to support themselves.

Human rights abuses were committed by combatants on all sides as they sought to control and exploit areas rich in mineral resources. In April and November the UN reported on the illegal exploitation of the DRC's natural resources by Congolese and foreign parties to the conflict. Almost all the fighting forces – the governments of the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda, factions of the RCD and the mayi-mayi - used child combatants, some as young as 10 years old.

Areas under government control

Death penalty

No executions were known to have taken place, but the death penalty continued to be imposed despite government assurances in recent years that a moratorium was in force. More than 70 people remained on death row.

  • Dozens of people were arrested in April or shortly after and charged with plotting to overthrow the government. Almost all were reportedly tortured to force them to implicate themselves or their co-defendants. They were denied access to lawyers before their trial. They were tried by the Cour d'ordre militaire (COM), Military Order Court, in Likasi, Katanga province; this court does not meet international fair trial standards or allow appeals to a higher or independent jurisdiction. On 13 September, 31 people were convicted after a patently unfair trial; 13 were sentenced to death, five of them in absentia, and 18 were sentenced to between five and 20 years' imprisonment. Some detainees were released without charge and others were awaiting trial at the end of 2001.
Unlawful killings

Throughout 2001 dozens of civilians suspected of illegal mining of diamonds in and around a mining area belonging to the MIBA state mining company in the town of Mbuji-Mayi were reportedly shot dead and scores wounded by soldiers and police guarding the mines. The authorities failed to investigate or take measures to prevent these shootings.
  • Eighteen-year-old Mukeba Muchuba was shot in the head by a MIBA guard on 16 September; his speech was severely impaired as a result of his injury.
  • Dibua Brinch was shot dead, reportedly by a Zimbabwean soldier, near the village of Luamuela on 12 October.
Neither was known to have been armed or to have posed any threat to life.


The security forces and armed political groups backed by the government tortured unarmed civilians suspected of supporting opposition forces or to settle personal scores. Journalists were particularly targeted. Methods included whippings and beatings with belts or metal tubes. Conditions of detention often amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
  • In February Rachel Chakupewa and her niece, Marie Muzingwa, were reportedly beaten by members of the security forces at the Hotel Okapi in Kinshasa, where the funeral ceremony of a relative of President Kabila was taking place. The two women were accused of attempting to poison relatives of President Kabila. They were detained for several days by the Garde spéciale présidentielle, Special Presidential Guard, at the presidential residence and subsequently at a security service detention centre known as the Groupe Litho Moboti (GLM) in Kinshasa. During the night of 6/7 February, Rachel Chakupewa was reportedly whipped for several hours by five soldiers and beaten with a metal tube until she was bleeding and unconscious.
  • Guy Kasongo Kilembwe, editor-in-chief of the satirical newspaper Pot-Pourri, was reportedly beaten at the time of his arrest in February and while held in detention without charge, mostly incommunicado, for a month. He was said to have been whipped, beaten with metal bars and threatened with death because his newspaper had criticized the then Minister of the Interior.
  • Anne-Marie Masumbuko Mwali was reportedly beaten with belts and a piece of wood at the GLM detention centre while being interrogated, during three separate arrests in March, about the alleged role of her husband, former army major Janvier Bora Kamwanya, in the murder of President Kabila.
Many of those arrested in connection with alleged coup attempts in late 2000 and April 2001 and the assassination of President Kabila were tortured. At least two people arrested in connection with the assassination died as a result of their torture.
  • Pierre Ngbutene died on the night of 13/14 April while in the custody of the security service known as the Détection militaire des activités anti-patrie (DEMIAP), Military Detection of Unpatriotic Activities, in Kinshasa, reportedly as a result of torture.
  • On 9 September Koyese Swako died of septicaemia, apparently caused by a lung infection contracted through repeated blows to the chest during torture, also in DEMIAP custody. In neither case were any steps taken to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Political prisoners

As many as 100 civilians and soldiers, accused of involvement in the alleged coup attempt of October 2000 and the assassination in January of President Laurent-Désiré Kabila, were detained without charge in detention centres in Kinshasa and the southeastern province of Katanga. Human rights defenders were also detained as prisoners of conscience and ill-treated in an attempt to intimidate them and prevent them from carrying out their work.
  • Golden Misabiko Baholelwa, president of the Lubumbashi branch of the Association africaine de défense des droits de l'homme (ASADHO), African Association for the Defence of Human Rights, was tortured while detained without charge from February to September. He was questioned in particular about an ASADHO communiqué which denounced the executions in November 2000 of eight alleged coup conspirators.
  • Guy Maginzi, a member of the Lubumbashi-based Centre des droits de l'homme, Human Rights Centre, was detained for several days in February after he exchanged greetings with Golden Misabiko Baholelwa at N'djili airport as the latter was being transferred from Lubumbashi to Kinshasa. He was reportedly whipped and beaten on the soles of his feet at the GLM detention centre.
  • N'sii Luanda Shandwe, president of the Comité des observateurs des droits de l'homme (CODHO), Committee of Human Rights Observers, was arrested in June and detained by DEMIAP agents. He was held at the Kinshasa Penitentiary and Re-education Centre before being released without charge in September.

Journalists were particularly targeted for arrest and ill-treatment in a continued clamp-down on freedom of expression.
  • In March, Trudon Kiomba Shesha, a journalist with the Kasai-Oriental province newspaper Congo Wetu, was reportedly beaten by police officers after the newspaper accused the provincial governor of xenophobia and improper sale of land.
  • Kinshasa newspaper journalists Washington Lutumba of Le Potentiel and Jules-César Mayimbi of Forum des As were arrested in March and April respectively on libel charges after publishing allegations that flour delivered to the southwestern province of Bas-Congo may have been unfit for human consumption. Jules-César Mayimbi did not receive any medication for tuberculosis while in detention and both men had to rely entirely on their families for food. They were provisionally released in May and had not been tried by the end of 2001.
Areas controlled by armed political groups and foreign forces

Unlawful killing of civilians, arbitrary and unlawful detentions, and torture, including rape, continued to be inflicted by Congolese armed political groups, particularly the RCD-Goma and the RCD-ML, as well as their allies among Rwandese and Ugandan troops present in the DRC. Very few perpetrators were held to account by the commanders or foreign governments responsible.

Unlawful killings

Armed political groups and foreign troops killed hundreds of unarmed civilians in eastern DRC.

The collapse of the coalition between the RCD-ML and the MLC reportedly resulted in the killings of hundreds of unarmed civilians in the northeast of the country.
  • In January, in reprisal for earlier killings of several dozen members of the Hema ethnic group by Lendu fighters, armed Hema combatants, supported by Ugandan soldiers, killed as many as 250 unarmed civilians, most of them Lendu, in the northeastern town of Bunia.
  • In February, 15 unarmed civilians on a bus to Nyamirera, Bunyakiri territory, South-Kivu, were shot and killed by mayi-mayi combatants.
  • Between April and July, MLC combatants and Ugandan troops, contesting control of coltan mines with mayi-mayi near Butembo in North-Kivu, reportedly killed several hundred unarmed civilians and burned homes.
  • On 13 September RCD-Goma and Rwandese troops, firing to disperse a peaceful demonstration held in Bukavu over non-payment of civil service salaries, shot dead Ombeni Bahati, a student.
Persecution of human rights defenders

Human rights defenders, investigating human rights abuses by armed political groups and their foreign backers, were targeted.
  • Jules Nteba Mbakumba, of the Elimu Association, fled in August to neighbouring Burundi from Uvira, South-Kivu, controlled by the RCD-Goma and its Rwandese and Burundian allies, after several of his colleagues were detained by RCD-Goma and accused of distributing leaflets for the mayi-mayi. In October he was arrested by the Burundian authorities, returned to the RCD-Goma in DRC, and detained at a Rwandese military camp at Kavimvira near Uvira, where he was reportedly bound and severely beaten. He was subsequently transferred to a detention centre in Goma where he was still being held at the end of 2001.
  • Juma Pili Rumanya, a member of the Héritiers de la Justice, was shot dead on 29 October by men in military uniform in Uvira, South-Kivu. It was suspected that he had been targeted because of a call by his group for the release of Jules Nteba.
  • Norbert Kisanga, a journalist, was reportedly beaten during six days' detention in October by the Direction de sécurité et de renseignements (DSR), Directorate for Security and Intelligence, the RCD-Goma security police. His newspaper, Les Coulisses, had reported that RCD-Goma officials were involved in importing counterfeit textiles.
Detention and torture

Critics of RCD-Goma and foreign troops in eastern DRC were detained and subjected to torture, including rape, in private houses, shipping containers and pits. Many detainees accused of supporting the DRC government or its allies were only released after payment.
  • In August Pastor Claude Olenga Sumaili, of the Roman Catholic Church's Justice and Peace Commission in Kisangani, was stripped and beaten for several hours by members of the DSR. He had reportedly voiced support in a radio broadcast for the demilitarization of Kisangani.
  • Mami Mwayuma was shot dead on 7 August after she rejected an RCD-Goma soldier's advances in Kisangani. The soldier was reportedly arrested and tried by a military court; the outcome was unknown.
  • In September, two sons of businessman Bakana Meso, aged about 17 and 30, were accused of links with the DRC government and detained overnight in Bukavu by the DSR until their father paid US$500.
Impact of economic activities

Hundreds of civilians were reportedly forced by combatants of armed political groups and their foreign backers to work in mines, including in the Masisi territory, North-Kivu. Miners and mineral dealers were frequently detained and subjected to beatings and other forms of ill-treatment, sometimes to force them to work harder or to extort money or diamonds. In some areas, members of armed political groups used violence, including torture and other forms of ill-treatment, to force civilians to leave their homes and to seize their land for mining activities.
  • Mashini Lofofo, Albert Lukumbura and Sherif Mbayi were detained in August by members of the RCD-Goma, reportedly in an attempt to force them to sell diamonds to RCD-Goma officials at a low price. They were released in November after intervention by visiting AI delegates.
AI country reports/visits

  • Democratic Republic of Congo: Deadly conspiracies? (AI Index: AFR 62/004/2001)
  • Democratic Republic of Congo: Rwandese-controlled east – Devastating human toll (AI Index: AFR 62/011/2001)
  • Democratic Republic of Congo: Torture – a weapon of war against unarmed civilians (AI Index: AFR 62/012/2001)
  • Democratic Republic of Congo: Memorandum to the Inter-Congolese Dialogue – Amnesty International's recommendations for a human rights agenda (AI Index: AFR 62/030/2001)

In October AI delegates visited Kinshasa, Mbuji-Mayi and Lubumbashi to gather information about human rights violations in areas controlled by the government, and held talks with government authorities. In October and November AI delegates visited eastern DRC to gather information about human rights abuses there.

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