[This, our third installment in the UN—Aid that Kills series, is dedicated to all those well-intentioned, though seemingly deluded (as they refuse to recognize or consider the abundant evidence against the International Humanitarian mafia) Friends of Rwanda and Congo, who continue to clamor for Truth, Justice, Peace, Reconciliation and Relief, at the very gates of their torturers, their occupiers, their oppressors and their killers.

Headlines like:

UN Demands Obama Investigates Torture
Rapport de l'ONU sur le génocide des Hutu au Congo

describe how the servile and craven media continue to aid and abet the UN cover-up of the hideous crimes it has, itself, not only been complicit in, but actually, in many cases, singlehandedly committed for the sake of Western, predominantly US, imperialism. The needless irrigation of the forests of eastern Congo with the innocent blood of many millions of terrorized and fleeing human souls, is a far greater—and far more obscene waste of natural resources than all the leaking oil wells, shipwrecked tankers and dynamited pipelines combined—and more like the genocides of native Americans and Australians than any other war related mass slaughters.

So with this third part of the series we return to the writer we featured in part two: former Rwandan Armed Forces officer, Faustin Ntilikina, from his “Rwanda: The Taking of Kigali and the Hunting Down of Refugees by the Army of General Paul Kagame.” This is strong stuff Ntilikina has written, and these images continue to haunt the imagination long after one has finished the book—and they seem even more effecting, more moving, and more painful with each rereading. {I am told that an English-language edition is forthcoming, but I don't know for sure.}

And lest we be accused of sentimentality or of being ‘pornographers of violence’ with these lurid images of the deaths of the innocent and defenseless, it should be considered that all current efforts, replete with photos of beheadings and various other mortal injuries, by the self-proclaimed Opposition, toward the reform Rwandan politics by removing the devil incarnate, Paul Kagame, as head of that country, are as feckless as they are solipsistic and ahistorical. Not to acknowledge and condemn the recent arrest of the Executive Secretary of the Forces for the Democratic Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), Callixte Mbarushimana, on an ICC warrant (see Charles Onana’s new book, Al-Bashir and Darfur: a Counter-Investigation, out {in French} on Éditions Duboiris {http://cirqueminime.blogcollective.com/blog/_archives/2010/10/19/4659730.html}, on this relatively new International gang of extra-judicial tormenters of Africans), and the recent death in custody (otherwise known as ‘execution’, or just plain ‘murder’) of Georges Rutaganda, a vice-president of the Interahamwe (and the only vp who didn’t turn snitch for the ICTR) and one of the first representatives of Rwanda’s majority party, the MRND, to be convicted (against all evidence) by the ICTR in one of its most self-(pre)serving judgments to date, is to turn one’s back on the very history of the country, the homeland and the people, one seeks to redeem with such bootless petitions to the UN and the US State Dept., the original destroyers of that history.

So forgive us if these images rob you of sleep; try to remember that the millions and millions of refugees who were driven from their once peaceful homes in Rwanda and into the inhospitable forests of Congo, by forces financed, armed, trained, and commanded by, and in total service to, Western Waste Capital, will never wake up again. —mc]


Humanitarian Aid Trapped

From Ubundu, the refugees who had made it across the Lualaba River found themselves in front of an impenetrable forest into which there was a barely discernable opening. It was what remained of a railroad right-of-way. This railway route, hidden beneath the abundant vegetation, dated from the glory days of colonial expeditions.

Just off their boats, the refugees were funneled toward the North by guides and members of the Congolese Red Cross, obviously briefed on, and even experienced in, the cause of the AFDL (Alliance de forces démocratiques pour la libération du Congo—cm/p). The only other explanation for this rush was that the local military commander, the famous Colonel, did not want this lot in his port. Then, it seemed imperative that everyone leave, toward Kisangani along the railroad trail, as if they were taking the shortest route to meet the troops of the Alliance. The guides do all they can to discourage the refugees from heading toward the West. They describe, with all due exaggeration, the inhospitable nature of the forest and, in the most minute detail, the dangers that a traveler might encounter: unfordable streams, swamps, nothing to eat, poisonous snakes, various diseases . . . The refugees, who by now trusted no one and seriously doubted the good faith of their immediate benefactors, really had no choice. They were hungry and tired. They could only follow this providential opening and through it reach some relief. They had weathered hard trials since the destruction of Tingi-Tingi was followed by two weeks of marching without rest and the terrifying crossing. And due to this state of things, they knew neither where they were nor where they were going. In this march toward hope, the refugees tried to convince themselves they were in good hands and pressed on.

Soon the rail line became a series of little encampments, each about one-day’s walking distance from the next. The most important concentrations were at Obilo, 82 km from Kisangani, at PK 52, 52 km out, at Biaro, 41 km, and at Kasese, 27 km. These little centers, which before the arrival of the Rwandan refugees were no more than crude little depots for re-supplying travelers with fruit and brochettes of monkey meat, would become, for several months, the odd witnesses to the suffering and cruelty of Mankind. Because the pain that was inflicted on the Rwandan refugees between March and April 1997, and that these camps saw, and some even lived through, would also fall on the local residents along this road to perdition.

Despite the presence of NGOs and some reserves of food and medicine in Kisangani, the refugees could not get any further than Kasese; for reasons of security again, as the AFDL leader would say. Then, in an about-face, the NGOs came to meet them. They installed their posts at Obilo. They invited all those who came from Ubundu (125 km) to regroup in this camp which was given the name, as humorous as it was cynical, “The Peace Camp,” in Kinyarwanda, “Inkambi y’Amahoro.” The news of this camp, put out by the High Commissioner for Refugees (HCR) and then passed along by NGOs, was that these refugees were going to be returned to a semblance of good health before being given the choice to go back home willingly, or to be resettled in Zaire or some other country. This is how the story is told by those who came there for aid. The Rwandan intellectuals who survived the crossing of the Lualaba river collaborated on this project. They did not want to take part powerlessly in a disaster like what happened in Ubundu, where hundreds of thousands of people threw themselves into the river out of disgust for life and the loss of all hope. They quickly set up a committee to run the camp, which sent a delegation north to encourage refugees to come back to Obilo.

During this time, the Rwandan elements of the AFDL took the initiative after the conquest of Kisangani on 15 March 1997. They sent reconnaissance units toward Ubundu to “organize” the refugees. Sure of bagging their prey without undue effort, their attitude was not aggressive. Intelligence agents spread out along the route, dressed as young boys from the city or as Congolese aid workers. They often came along with Humanitarian Aid workers and were tasked with briefing the military teams and disinforming their victims. The language was the same: They invited the refugees to rejoin the camps, especially the one at Obilo, which had, in record time, received sufficient food, shelter and provisions for emergency healthcare, for all the survivors who arrived there.

The refugees who pushed on the farthest to the North were stopped at Kasese. There was no official significance to Kasese, but it had as many inhabitants as any of the intermediary stops. The Congolese Red Cross, which had been infiltrated by agents of the Rwandan Army was the only Humanitarian Organization that took any interest in this camp. More or less one day’s walk from Kisangani, this improvised site was, first and foremost, a staging area and a fork in the road where these people had to make their ultimate decision. The refugees had elsewhere been called “Hitamo,” meaning “choose.” They had to choose between waiting for the roads to Kisangani to open so they could, best case scenario, return to Rwanda, or head off toward the West, where the forest was known to be very hostile.

Those who arrived first, and were pushed to get back with the Humanitarian Organizations, around 16 March, tried the road to Kisangani. They ran into a military roadblock set up by the Rwandan Forces just 5 km from the entrance to the city. There the refugees were sorted by sex and age after quick on-the-spot interrogations. The men were then taken under heavy escort to different places. Several witnesses cite André Kagimbangabo and Fréderic Karangwa, the former Prefects of Cyangugu and Butare, respectively, as being among those separated out and killed around this roadblock. Aloys is one of the witnesses who saw them leave Kasese. He said that the two Prefects, accompanied by several other refugees, including a certain Bagezaho, had chosen to push on to Kisangani to surrender themselves to the head of the AFDL, an act referred to in Kinyarwanda as “kwishyira mu maboko ya Kiabila,” or delivering oneself over to Kabila. They did not yet know that Kabila was himself an agent in what he thought was “his war against the dictator Mobutu.” These three ex-authorities were murdered and then savagely mutilated in the presence of their families, according to another witness.

The practice of sorting out and breaking up of groups was a nightmare for those who were in the camps of Mugunga et Katale-Kahindo. At Kasese, faced with uncertainty, some chose to wait and learn more. The undecided were especially those who were still with their loved ones or adults with small children. They were afraid for themselves to return to Kisangani, but they especially dreaded seeing their children and close family member suffer once again the trek across 700 km of swamps and forests, before reaching the border of Congo-Brazzaville. Sometimes, pushed to be done with these moments of anguish and uncertainty, the little groups formed and left. Toward Kisangani or toward the West, the direction was of little importance, because, sooner or later, life would end.

On 23 March, around 1 pm, the Rwandan troops were ready and went into action. The camp of “Kasese-Hitamo” was, naturally, the first to be attacked. The moment chosen was when the camps provisional committee had called everyone to consider going back to Obilo, about 50 km to the South, which received more consistent aid and where the HCR was organizing for an eventual return to Rwanda. The attack on the camp made up the minds of the still undecided. The attackers ran in firing at point blank range with assault rifles and rifle-launched grenades. The refugees died in the thousands. The survivors spread out into the Nature they had for some time been reluctant to face, but from which they still expected sustenance and protection. The Rwandan troops continued their movement toward the South by taking the road in the opposite direction from the one the refugees had taken. At each staging area it was the same scene. They fired into the crowd. The number of victims was horrifying. The mortally wounded, who believed they had momentarily escaped death, threw themselves into the forest, which promised them little. Driven by a ferocious instinct to survive, they came out of the forest and headed back along the railroad trail. There, they sat down and waited for the aid workers or death, because they could do nothing else. The narrow path left by the railroad was quickly strewn with the dead or dying, whom the marchers shoved off into the brush to make themselves a little space.

The witnesses and all those who took pity on the fate of the refugees spoke only of the people killed. The reality is that for each death, there were two or three wounded, an orphan, and others who continued to suffer from various afflictions for several more days. With each attack, there were children separated from their parents in excruciating conditions and that no one could help. François is a witness whose photo, taken holding a baby in agony, was seen around the world thanks to the documentary film by Hubert Sauper, Kisangani Diary—Loin du Rwanda. He shared his feeling of the moment with me, as well as his memories of these difficult times.

There are some moments of this ordeal that cannot be forgotten. I will always keep the memory of
these very young children separated from their parents and abandoned by passers-by, whose fate
in that jungle could only be tragic. Images of babies crying while they continue to suck at their
dead or dying mother’s breast constantly come back to me. Visibly conscious of the dangers they
faced if their mothers did not continue to march with the others, these young children went so far as
to beat the corpses to wake up their parent who is, sadly, asleep forever. Other scenes, even harder
to bear, were of adults, who could no longer run to escape the slaughter, choosing to end their lives
sitting next to a pile of corpses or near other people who were in the last throes of a mortal illness,
of exhaustion or of gangrene.

Under these conditions, all these refugees would die, far outside the gaze of the world, so that no one could see them or even talk about them. I noticed with great regret—I, who would presume to dedicate this story to them—that their names have not even been entered on the rolls of the deceased.

Continuing their journey toward the South, General Paul Kagame’s soldiers attacked Obilo, “the Peace Camp,” which was transformed in an instant into a veritable death camp. Some ran for the brush, others, hopeless and no longer able to run, accepted death. Those who had avoided death were regrouped at Biaro (Km 41), a camp for the survivors of Obilo, who could not bear the suffering, and for those who chose to be candidates for repatriation to Rwanda. At Karese, some 15 km north of Biaro, other refugees gathered in anticipation of returning home. The two camps were officially the responsibility of the HCR and some NGOs. In reality, the Rwandan military hierarchy would never tolerate this little rest stop for the Hutus in a zone entirely under its control. The 1995 massacres at Kibeho in Rwanda are reminders of this.

First, the troops tracked the refugees as they hung around outside the two camps, all the while infiltrating the centers of the NGOs in Biaro and Kasese. Realizing they were surrounded and constantly under threat of imminent death, the refugees resigned themselves merely to getting back into the camps as candidates for repatriation to Rwanda under international protection. Many of them came out of the forests. The numbers reached 100,000 just for the camp at Biaro in mid-April 1997. Then, the Rwandan troops gradually took over the camps, furnishing security, supervising the distribution of food, and even “protecting” the transfer to Kisangani of candidates for repatriation. The HCR wound up cutting a deal with the AFDL to give the Alliance control over all the logistics involved with repatriation. This is when they had total domination of the camp and the NGOs began to accept the word of the devil as the Rwandan troops put their plan into action. The military hierarchy set everything they had to work for the elimination of as many refugees as possible by surrounding them, but with maximum discretion. They broke out their plan and the full range of their strategies and methods to create incidents. They brought in their torturers and gravediggers who had been preparing for this filthy job for a long time. Humanitarian Organizations, even those acting in good faith, were taken in all the way to the end. They showed concern for the disappearance of refugees, they showed revulsion at the sight of obvious massacres, but they did nothing to stop or even denounce these premeditated crimes—for lack of evidence. Some NGOs went so far as to get themselves kicked out of the camps for wanting to know too much or for getting mixed up in those things “they hadn’t seen.”

On the other side of honesty, the HCR and other organizations, however well informed about the reality of things, continued to invite the refugees to come back to the “death camps,” to facilitate their return to Rwanda. They blindly held on to this radical approach to the solution of the refugee problem in eastern Zaire, a policy some countries seemed to have negotiated with or even entrusted to the Rwandan government. The sad truth is that General Paul Kagame took advantage of this international blessing to wipe out the demographic and political potential of his opponents, while at the same time taking control of the natural wealth of the Eastern Congo, which served to guarantee his domination of the Rwandan and Congolese people. Who among his foreign observers and benefactors would have been dumb enough not to figure out the military intentions of the RPA or not to notice the facts on the ground. The Rwandan soldiers had not come as Good Samaritans! Tharcisse, who has already been part of this story, survived for a long time in the camp at Biaro before being repatriated by plane from Kisangani. He describes the game run on the refugees:

The special teams from the RPA regularly came through the camps to sort out the refugees.
The names of intellectuals and of the leaders of the refugees were first read off of prepared lists.
Then, the able-bodied men and young people were invited to join the ranks of the Rwandan
Patriotic Army. The numbers were too good to be true: the army recruited about 50,000 men
to overthrow President Mobutu. Finally, the women, the children and those who were worn out
were regrouped according to their home prefecture to be conveyed to Kisangani or toward a little
transit camp. The intellectuals were invited to join the meetings for the organization of the camp
or the formation of convoys. In reality, they were taken to the sites where they were massacred or
put on the road toward Kisangani, where they were tortured during interrogation sessions. From
there they ended their treks either in a mass grave or in a river, or in Kigali after being
transferred in a military aircraft. Those volunteers who were found to be fit candidates to join the
army were regrouped and taken to some phony training camps where they were dealt with by
teams of torturers assigned to these secret places. There they were either clubbed to death with
blows to the temple or machine gunned in an area where they had been rounded up beforehand.

The bodies were then thrown in the rivers or burned on a pyre prepared by teams of grave diggers who had traveled with the troops since the beginning of the offensive. Trucks loaded with firewood were going into these areas that were out of bounds for the refugees and coming back out empty. The stench of burning flesh and of bodies in purification was evident all the way inside the camps. For the columns of refugees being led on toward Kisangani or the “little camps” organized according to home prefecture, the game was to set up ambushes, in complete collusion with the escorting troops. Tharcisse goes on:

One day in April, a thousand refugees, warned and organized in advance, headed out on the road to Kisangani. They were encircled by about thirty soldiers who marched, arms at the ready, in front, behind and on both sides of the column. After about an hour’s march, the refugees came under fire from the flanks all along the column. The attackers launched grenades and fired automatic rifles. The escorts disappeared without returning fire while the refugees fell mortally wounded, or plunged headlong into the forest desperately seeking cover. The troops lying in ambush fired into the brush for so long that they emptied their clips and even used up their reserves. While waiting for more supplies, some Hutu troops in this assault unit yelled in Kinyarwanda to their refugee brothers and sisters:

“Mwagenda mwa bintu mwe. Ntabwo tubarasa”—“Get outta here, you idiots. We’re not going
to shoot you.” They advised the refugees hunkered down in the brush to save themselves by
running away. Some, driven by that last taste of life, crawled inch by inch through the underbrush
without much hope for one last reprieve. Others, dying or already dead from fear or from a
disgust with life, waited out their last hours in agony.

Similar incidents happened frequently. But there were also cases of “miraculous survival.” Often, it was the entire group that was able to escape, especially when they were being conducted by young Hutu or Congolese soldiers, who, themselves, were on the verge of cracking up from all the horrors they had taken part in since October 1996.

Besides the official convoys headed for Kisangani, little groups of fifty or so people were regularly isolated. They were led off to “the slaughterhouse” on a prepared site for executions with all the necessary materiel to hide the evidence. For several days, soldiers could, in a systematic fashion and following an intricately detailed plan, do as they pleased with the victims of this butchery. The lists of those on their way to Kisangani and those who had “volunteered for army enlistment” appeared to be totally official. No pushing or shoving, each refugee being registered would get his turn at mortality. Only the smell of burning corpses and of decomposing cadavers regularly reminded passers by and those who waited their turn to die that they were on the highway to hell.

During the night of 21-22 April 1997, General Paul Kagame’s men, with AFDL forces for cover, decided, as they had at Kibeho in Rwanda back in 1997, to be done with these Hutu camps in the territory they controlled. They attacked at night with machine guns and massacred the inhabitants of Biaro and Kasese. But the morning of 22 April brought the real horror show. In stead of the troops usually manning the principal routes of access, the humanitarian aid workers and the occasional journalist found the camps empty but for a carpet of dead bodies among which writhed the wounded and near-expired who had, by some miracle, escaped death.

At the time, the HCR spoke of 85,000 refugees who had been reported missing for, at least, the last two days. Had they gone back into the forest? The HCR did not even pose the question. They were content to announce that a few tens of thousands of these refugees had returned to the camp a week later, hungrier, more exhausted and more terrorized. They had waited for death because they could no longer resist in this forest controlled every inch by hostile troops. These were the strong who came back, the weaker ones were already dead or busy dying.

By the beginning of May, such incidents had become so frequent as to be considered daily occurrences. So, while speaking of a disaster that had struck on Saturday, 3 May 1997, where 91 refugees were suffocated and crushed to death inside over-loaded box cars heading from Biaro to Kisangani, Paul Stromberg, the spokesman for HCR in the Great Lakes region, searched for and found the words to explain this horror. He admitted, for example, that “except for firing in the air, the (Rwandan) troops had not had the means to control the crowd. He acknowledged, however, that the loading up of the refugees was marked by a “total and complete panic ( . . .).” He goes on, “. . . you can more easily control loading an airplane or a truck, but a six or seven car train is very difficult. The people literally threw themselves into the train. . .” It is a mortal shame that an official of the HCR would say, “We asked them immediately to stop the evacuations by train--the one time we examined the situation.”