- A report by the UN that looked into the mid-August massacre of refugees in Burundi was unable to pin the blame on any group. The UN expert group however holds it unlikely that the Burundian Hutu rebel group that claimed responsibility for the massacre had acted on its own. The report thus strengthens Rwandan and Burundian claims.
An expert team by the UN today presented its report on the August slaying of Congolese Tutsi refugees in Burundi, which UN peacekeepers had been unable to prevent. The report fails to identify the perpetrators of the brutal overnight massacre which left 160 people dead, and the team therefore recommends a further investigation into the case.
Despite "extensive research" in both Burundi and eastern Congo Kinshasa (DRC), the UN investigators are "at this stage unable to conclusively identify who authored, financed, or carried out the killings" of the Banyamulenge - Congolese Tutsis - at the Gatumba transit centre located just inside Burundi's border.
Despite claims of responsibility from the Burundian Hutu rebel group PALIPEHUTU-FNL, it seemed "unlikely" that these rebels had acted on their own, the team UN says. According to testimony from survivors, other groups were there, identifiable by language and chant, but those statements could not be independently confirmed.
The governments of Burundi and Rwanda, as well as Congolese Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba, himself a member of the targeted ethnic group, have levelled charges at an alliance of anti-Tutsi groups in eastern Congo, which might include Mayi-Mayi militia, along with elements from the Armed Forces of the Congo, the ex-Forces Armees Rwandaises (FAR) and the Interahamwe. The latter militias where behind the 1994 Rwanda genocide, killing around 800.000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
The UN team claims to have looked into these claims by Rwanda, Burundi and Congolese Tutsis. But after investigating these claims, the UN team says it "was unable to find conclusive evidence implicating any of those actors," the report says.
Sources had told the UN team that refugees in the Gatumba centre were in two groups, supporters of two Banyamulenge leaders: Colonel Jules Mutebutsi, who led the June attack on Bukavu university town in the Congo, and Patrick Masunzu, leader of a pro-Kinshasa armed group.
- However, the UN team was unable to determine the composition of political allegiances, if any, of the camp population at the time of the massacre, the report adds. The UN investigators further did not find weapons in the centre and could not verify reports of military recruiting, either.
At the same time, the team had "collected sufficient information about this grave crime to recommend a thorough judicial inquiry at both the national level, led by the government of Burundi, with the full cooperation of [Congo Kinshasa] and Rwanda, and the international level, led by the International Criminal Court," the UN said today.
In a letter accompanying the report, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed his grave concern about crimes against civilians in both Burundi and the Congo. "As the Security Council has noted in several of its resolutions and presidential statements, impunity must be brought to an end and perpetrators of crimes such as the one described in the attached report must be brought to justice," says Mr Annan.
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