UN rights chief urges international probe of Congo killings

Since last September, the armed followers of tribal chieftain Kamwina Nsapu - who was killed a month earlier - have rebelled against the authority of the central government.

Prince Zeid's comments came on the same day that the Catholic church claimed more than 3,300 people have been killed in the central Kasai region - an opposition stronghold - since October.

The minister also said Congolese opposition leader Moise Katumbi, who has been overseas since he was accused of plotting against the state a year ago, was free to come back to Congo whenever he wants, although he would have to face justice.

Ten of the villages were destroyed by the security forces, four by militias and six by "unknown actors", the church said. "At least two pregnant women were sliced open and their fetuses mutilated".

More than 3300 people have been killed in central Congo's volatile Kasai provinces since August, according to a document released by the Catholic church, as the United Nations called for an worldwide investigation after accounts of babies with machete wounds and pregnant women sliced open.

Some 42 mass graves have been uncovered in the area.

In his remarks, Mr. Zeid recalled the killing of two United Nations experts who were after being abducted while investigating the situation in the country. Their bodies were later found in a shallow grave along with the body of their Congolese colleague. In addition to the Kamwina Nsapu fighters, another militia has arisen to defend civilians against the attacks.

Congo's government is against an outside investigation.

But government spokesman Lambert Mende said DR Congo "is not disposed to agree to the idea of deploying an global committee of inquiry on its territory" that would function independently of Congolese bodies.

Alexis Thambwe Mwamba, DRC's justice minister, rejected an independent probe.

She insisted Kamwina Nsapu rebels were behind the "true human slaughter" in the Kasai and said that 1,333 civilians and 289 police had been killed in the unrest.

Investigators deployed by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, reported refugees from multiple villages in the Kamonya territory indicated the Bana Mura had in the past two months shot dead, hacked, burned to death and mutilated hundreds of villagers.

Mr Hussein said the authorities created and armed the Bana Mura militia to fight the Kamwina Naspu, but that the group has carried out "horrific attacks against civilians from the Luba and Lulua ethnic groups".

"Hundreds of assailants also allegedly attacked the main health centre in the village and killed some 90 patients, medical personnel and others", he said, adding that more than 20 other villages had faced similar attacks.

  • Leroy Wright