SOURCE:HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
VII. WHO IS IN CHARGE: TOWARDS ESTABLISHING RESPONSIBILITYDuring a July 1997 interview with the Washington Post, Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame claimed that the Rwandan government had planned and led the military campaign that dispersed the refugee camps in Eastern Congo and ousted former President Mobutu. According to the Washington Post, Kagame was unequivocal concerning his objectives:
The impetus for the war, Kagame said, was the Hutu refugee camps. Hutu militiamen used the camps as bases from which they launched raids into Rwanda, and Kagame said the Hutus had been buying weapons and preparing a full-scale invasion of Rwanda.
Kagame said the battle plan as formulated by him and his advisors was simple. The first goal was to 'dismantle the camps.' The second was to 'destroy the structure' of the Hutu army and militia units based in and around the camps either by bringing the Hutu combatants back to Rwanda and 'dealing with them here or scattering them.' Kagame's third objective was to topple Mobutu. Congolese President Kabila confirmed Rwanda's military assistance in Congo during an official visit to Kigali on September 9, 1997, when he publicly thanked Rwanda for their help during the war.
These statements lend support to the numerous testimonies taken by Human Rights Watch/FIDH from Congolese, refugees, and expatriates in Congo regarding the presence of Rwandan and other foreign troops in Congo during the war. Similarly, Kagame's stated objective of destroying "the structure" of the ex-FAR provides a possible explanation for the active pursuit of refugees, former military, and militia across Congolese territory to areas of minor strategic importance, such as Mbandaka.
Despite the public recognition of military involvement, both Kabila and Kagame have denied that any civilian massacres took place by troops under their command. Both during the war and up to the present, however, the identities of many commanding officers and strategists of the ADFL and its allies were kept secret. Throughout the seven-month military campaign, senior officers in the field were often out of uniform and many used only their first names in public. Similarly, ranks were apparently confused or intentionally simplified to avoid identification of the military hierarchy: many officers of Katangese or Angolan origin were given or assumed the rank of "general", while numerous Ugandan and Rwandan officers were known only as "commander" or "colonel" followed by their first name only. It is possible that many of these first names that were used in public are pseudonyms.
Regional power structures that reflect the pattern in Kinshasa have been put into place in many of the provinces. In several regions, governors from the political opposition or from local ethnic groups have been installed, at times through simple hand-raising elections in stadiums. Despite this apparent democratic method, Congolese community leaders and civil servants, international humanitarian workers, and U.N. officials claimed that civilian authorities have had little power in decision-making, especially regarding refugee issues, and that important questions were handled by military authorities.
In several provinces, Katangese generals have been installed as regional military commanders, seconded by Rwandan or Ugandan officers in charge of operations and questions related to refugees and security. Tension often exists between the various military factions, especially between those of Rwandan or Ugandan origin and those from Angola, Katanga, or non-Kinyarwanda speaking groups. One Katangese general, allegedly responsible for the province of Equateur, stated flatly to a Congolese humanitarian official that he did not handle refugee issues.
The identities of leading officers and strategists may have been intentionally hidden by the ADFL in order to protect those responsible for war crimes. Nevertheless, some became known to embassies in Kinshasa, humanitarian organizations, and Congolese, as either strategists or field commanders, or both. Lt. Colonel James Kabarebe, often known as Commander"James," or "James Kabare," was described by a U.S. Embassy official in Kinshasa as the most powerful commander in Congo and a principal strategist during the seven-month war. An English-speaker, James claims to have grandparents from Rutshuru in North-Kivu, and has spent time in Uganda. James was active in the field during the war, telling an embassy official in Kinshasa how he changed the tactics of the ADFL after taking Kisangani. He was reportedly the field commander for the decisive battle at Kenge just prior to the fall of Kinshasa and was subsequently responsible for troops taking the capital.
James continued to play a key role in the military structure in Kinshasa and is likely the most powerful officer in Congo as of this writing. He participated in the first official talks between President Kabila and U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson in Lubumbashi in early June 1997. Rwandan Vice-President Kagame acknowledged that James was a key commander operating in Congo during the war and had been assigned to organize the new Congolese army.
Other officers were seen regularly by many observers in areas where massacres took place. Below is a list of some of these individuals who may have been involved in, or been aware of, the organization or execution of civilian massacres in Congo. The list is incomplete, and likely represents a small fraction of those involved. Human Rights Watch/FIDH publishes the list not in an effort to accuse the below of war crimes but to insist that investigations are initiated by appropriate governments to clarify the role of each of these individuals and, equally important, other parties implicated in the massacres.
Commander "David"Referred to as commander or major, originally from Rwanda or the Rutshuru area of North-Kivu. A fluent English and Kinyarwanda speaker, David has said that he left Rwanda at a young age to study in Uganda. By some reports, he also studied in Canada. According to numerous testimonies, he is approximately thirty years old, six foot one inch tall, thin, and has longish hair, very dark skin, and features characteristic of many ethnic Tutsi. David is a member of the RPA.
David played an important role in the fall of Goma on October 31, 1997. Expatriates in Goma at the time were instructed by UNHCR to refer to "Major David" in the event that they encountered the RPA during their evacuation.
David was in Beni in November 1996, in Isiro in early 1997, and finally in Kisangani in April 1997 during the period when access was cut to refugee camps and large-scale massacres were taking place. David was in Mbandaka on May 13, 1997, where eyewitnesses report over 1,300 people killed by ADFL troops and their allies. David told several sources in Mbandaka how he had made the journey from Kisangani to Mbandaka on foot.
After the departure of Commandant Wilson and Commandant Godfrey (see below) from Mbandaka, David claimed to be responsible for Equateur. David was described by many who had dealings with him as being very intelligent, helpful, and a disciplinarian. On at least one occasion, he ordered a soldier under his command to be flogged in public for an alleged rape. In an informal conversation with colleagues, he mentioned how easy it was to kill:
It's so easy to kill someone; you just go-[pointing his finger like a pistol]-and it's finished.
General Gaston MuyangoA native of the Katanga region, General Muyango is reportedly a Tshiluba, Lingala, and Portuguese speaker. Muyango was at numerous locations between Kisangani and Mbandaka shortly after killings took place. He arrived in Mbandaka on May 13, 1997 where over 1,300 refugees were killed by ADFL troops and their allies. In Mbandaka, he lived in ex-Minister Eduard Mokolo's house on Avenue Itela.
Despite his rank of general, Muyango was described by numerous Congolese and expatriates as having little power in Mbandaka. Humanitarian workers claimed that for important decisions they were referred to Commanders David, Godfrey Kabanda, or Wilson. Muyango stated in several private conversations that he didn't deal with refugee issues. He was reportedly often in conflict with these commanders and left Mbandaka around the third week in June.
Commander "Godfrey" KabandaCommander "Godfrey" was reportedly either the top commander or a commander of operations for the ADFL in Mbandaka on May 13, 1997 during the Mbandaka massacre. He is described as short and robust and having facial features characteristic of some Tutsi. Godfrey claimed to be the military commander for the Equateur region. According to press reports, Godfrey denied that any massacre had taken place in Mbandaka but spoke openly of how many of his soldiers were Tutsi survivors of Hutu refugee attacks on Congolese Tutsi in eastern Congo in 1996.
Godfrey left Mbandaka within a few weeks after the May 13, 1997 massacre.
Lt. Colonel or Col. Cyiago (Kiago)Often seen just behind the front lines during the war, a Lt. Colonel or Colonel with a name close to Cyiago (or "Kiago") was responsible for some of the ADFL troops on the road between Kisangani and Mbandaka, an area where massacres took place. A Kinyarwanda and Kiswahili speaker, Cyiago is tall, dark, thin and reportedly used an interpreter for his communications. Cyiago has been accused of being involved in the abduction of at least one Congolese civil servant who had spoken out concerning the killings in Equateur. Cyiago is a member of the RPA.
Commander or Lt. Colonel "Wilson"Wilson was at or near sites in South-Kivu, Haut-Congo, and Equateur during periods when massacres took place. Several reports indicate that he may be responsible for a special unit of RPA, composed primarily of experienced Rwandan soldiers, that has been implicated in several large massacres in Congo.
Wilson was in Kisangani during military interventions that took place at Biaro, Kasese I, and Kasese II that likely resulted in thousands of refugee deaths. According to aid workers in Kisangani, Wilson was responsible for training and inciting the local Congolese population south of Kisangani to launch attacks against refugees. He was a commander for RPA operations in Mbandaka on May 13, 1997, when a massacre took place. He was in Mbandaka until approximately May 24, 1997 when he was reportedly replaced by Commander David.
Wilson has striking facial scarification and, in addition to English, speaks the Kiswahili typical of Uganda. He claims to be from Uvira, in eastern Congo and is described as professional and intelligent by many who dealt with him on refugee issues. Wilson reportedly often went by the alias "Khadafi" in Rwanda as an RPA officer.
Colonel "Richard"According to members of the ADFL military in Mbandaka, Colonel Richard, a member of the RPA, was one of the commanders responsible for operations at Mbandaka during the massacre May 13, 1997.
Major "Jackson" Nkurunziza (or Nziza)An officer reported to be Major Nkurunziza (also referred to as Colonel or Commander "Jackson") was seen by numerous sources in Maniema, South-Kivu and Haut-Congo near sites where refugees were concentrated and/or massacres took place. Jackson, according to Congolese and aid workers also known as "the exterminator," speaks the Kiswahili of Uganda as well as fluent English and Kinyarwanda.
In early April, Jackson was a commander in the Shabunda area where he told aid workers that his mission was to eliminate ex-FAR and Interahamwe. During this period, humanitarian sources saw mass graves and decomposing bodies of what they state were civilian refugees in the Shabunda and neighboring areas. Corroborating sources state that Jackson was at barriers south of Kisangani during mid- to late April 1997 when massacres allegedly were taking place at refugee camps in the area. He was in Kisangani until mid-May and later in South-Kivu and Maniema as late as July 1997 during a period in which UNHCR was organizing voluntary repatriation. He was seen again in Kisangani as recently as early September 1997.
Commander "Joseph"Commander "Joseph" or "Yusef", according to witnesses from the Masisi area,was in charge of ADFL troops based in the village of Rukwi in North-Kivu in late 1996. Joseph, reportedly a captain from the Burundian army, has been accused by eyewitnesses of commanding troops who participated in massacres in the villages of Nyakariba and Nyamitaba in late December 1996.
Colonel "Dominic Yugo"According to testimony from local Congolese NGOs, countless journalists, and international humanitarian workers, a commanding officer among Mobutu's mercenaries in the Kisangani area by the name of Colonel "Dominic Yugo" was responsible for numerous abuses and violations of international humanitarian law. Yugo, a Serb, personally executed and tortured Congolese civilians suspected of collaborating with the ADFL. On March 8, 1997, on a road near the Kisangani airport, Yugo shot and killed two Protestant missionaries, with bibles in hand, accusing them of being ADFL spies. A beef importer from Goma was arrested by mercenaries on February 23, 1997 under Yugo's command and later described how he and others in detention were tortured and subject to inhumane treatment by Yugo himself.
According to an aid official, Yugo claimed responsibility for air attacks on Walikale and Bukavu, incidents which resulted in numerous civilian deaths and casualties.
John Pomfret, "Rwanda Planned and Led the Attack on Zaire," Washington Post, July 9, 1997.
Integrated Regional Information Network, Update 245, September 10, 1997.
In his interview with the Washington Post, Kagame does not deny the possibility of "individual atrocities".
In addition to numerous reports describing this tension, three separate shooting incidents in three different provinces occurred between Rwandan and Katangan elements during the Human Rights Watch/FIDH stay in Congo. At least four military deaths resulted.
Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview, Mbandaka, August 20, 1997.
Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview, U.S. Embassy, Kinshasa, August 22, 1997.
John Pomfret, "Rwandans Led Revolt in Congo," Washington Post, July 9, 1997.
Human Rights Watch/FIDH interviews in Kinshasa and Goma, August 1997.
Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview with aid workers in Goma, November 1996.
Human Rights Watch/FIDH interviews with U.S. Embassy official, Kinshasa, August 22, 1997, and aid workers in Goma, August 28, 1997.
Human Rights Watch/FIDH interviews with development workers of Mbandaka, Kinshasa, August 5, 1997.
Human Rights Watch/FIDH telephone interviews with aid workers formerly in Mbandaka, July 1997.
Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview with colleague of David, Congo, August 27, 1997.
Human Rights Watch/FIDH interviews with eyewitnesses between Kisangani and Mbandaka, August 1997.
 Colin Nickerson, "Refugee Massacre Unfolds in Congo," Boston Globe, June 6, 1997.
Human Rights Watch/FIDH interviews, first village, Kinshasa, and Nairobi, July and August, 1997.
Human Rights Watch/FIDH interviews with journalists and aid workers in the field, July and September 1997.
Human Rights Watch/FIDH telephone interviews with U.N. officials in Europe, July 1997.
Human Rights Watch/FIDH telephone interview with journalist in Washington, September 30, 1997.
Human Rights Watch/FIDH interviews, Congo, Nairobi, and New York, July-September 1997.
Human Rights Watch/FIDH interviews with journalists, aid workers, and U.N. officials, July-September 1997.
Human Rights Watch/FIDH interviews, Nairobi, March and August 1997.
James McKinley, "Serb Who Went to Defend Zaire Spread Death and Horror Instead," New York Times, March 19, 1997.
Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview, UNHCR official, September 1997.