A fight breaks out in a bar in the dark of the night in the town of Fizi, deep in the territory that bears the same name. The argument is between a civilian and a soldier of the 43rd Sector, over a woman. In the resulting melee, the soldier shoots the civilian. This sets off a riot, and an angry crowd lynches the soldier in public.
News of the lynching reaches the troops of the 43rd Sector. To “avenge” their fallen comrade, a group of soldiers descended upon Fizi for a massive campaign of rape and destruction. So far, 50 cases have been confirmed, but as more people return the official number is expected to climb. The real number is probably much higher, since many women will not report that they have been violated.
The 43rd Sector is part of Amani Leo (“Peace Now”), a military operation charged with dealing once and for all with the marauding FDLR rebels who continue to ravage the Kivus. Their commander, Lt. Colonel Kibibi Mutware is a former CNDP rebel who was integrated into the FARDC as the result of a 2009 peace agreement. He commands a group of Kinyarwanda-speaking Banyamulenge troops, often resented because of the role of their ethnic group in the Rwandan invasion of Eastern Congo.
Lt. Col. Kibibi claims that the perpetrators of this mass rape were soldiers disobeying orders to stay on base. However, as the people of Fizi recounted the horror they survived, it became clear that more than a few witnessed Lt. Col. Kibibi urging his soldiers to attack the people of Fizi, directing them in committing unspeakable acts of violence. These accusations were serious enough to be included in a UN report on the Fizi mass rape. Also, it is not the first time that Lt. Col. Kibibi has been accused of human rights abuses.
It is a well-documented phenomenon when FARDC military commanders spur their troops to ravage the very citizens they are sworn to protect, and the latest incident in Fizi is quite possibly another instance of such a sickening perversion.
MONUSCO troops now patrol Fizi town in order to maintain order, and a Congolese military spokesman has stated that all who were responsible for the carnage have been arrested. The Congolese military supposedly has a “zero-tolerance” policy towards human rights abuses, and yet it begs the question why something this massive and atrocious occurred in the first place.
The general apathy of the Congolese government and the international community towards human rights abuses committed by the FARDC is bearing bitter fruit. Human rights training, reprimands, and the removal of some commanders who condone rape have not been extensive enough to cut away the cancer that plagues the Congolese military. Amani Leo is quickly becoming a joke at the expense of the people of Eastern Congo.
When does this end?
Posted By WALTER JAMES
Posted Jan 26th, 2011