Witness recounts horror of massacre in the DRC

A witness on Tuesday gave a gruesome account of how a massacre in the Democratic Republic of Congo took place last weekend, accusing the perpetrators of locking up innocent people and then burning them.

“The criminals locked up people in their homes and then burned everything,” a survivor of the killings at Ntulumamba, a village in the east of DRC, said after members of an armed group killed more than 30 civilians there on Saturday night.

The headmaster of Ntulumamba’s primary school, who only gave his name as Bisimwa, managed to flee when the disaster unfolded and walked 70km to Sud-Kivu province’s main town Bukavu to find help.

A man in his forties, Bisimwa identified the armed men as “rasta”, a local militia, and Rwandan Hutu FDLR rebels who have been roving eastern DRC for the past 11 years.

The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) has denied any involvement in the attack.

“It started around 9pm (7pm GMT),” said Bisimwa. “A group led by Mr Kyombe Cinja-Cinja surprised people in their homes, at Kabingu in the village of Ntulumamba.”

He identified Cinja-Cinja as a Rwandan, and said he came to the area with his men to punish the local population for allegedly cooperating with the United Nations and the regular Congolese army which have been trying to restore security in Sud-Kivu since July 4.

Bisimwa fled along with other residents, mainly men, hiding in a nearby forest at night. He only returned to the village on Sunday morning.

“Before we went to Bukavu, we counted 35 dead and seven wounded including six women and one child,” he said as four survivors looked on in silence.

None of them said whether they had lost any relatives in the massacre.

Bisimwa said the fire lasted about an hour and that the assailants left quickly after the killings.

“Many people fled to Kalehe,” about 20km north of Ntulumamba,” he said, sure that some of them must have been wounded.

“We have asked the Congolese armed forces to make the area safe,” he said insisting that he would return to his village once it was secure.

The UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Monuc) on Tuesday dispatched an inquiry team to the eastern Sud-Kivu region to investigate the weekend violence.

Monuc announced on Monday that “more than 30 civilians, mostly women” had been herded into their huts which were then set alight in the attack.

The province bordering Rwanda and Burundi remains one of the most volatile regions in DRC, still struggling to emerge from a 1998-2003 war and home to many former rebel and militia groups.

The UN forces, part of a mission of more than 17 000 troops, police and civilians, are spread across the country with a dual role of helping promote progress towards democratic elections and keeping the peace.

Rwandan Hutu rebels, allied with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, have spent more than a decade in eastern DRC, fleeing accusations that they were actively involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide which left 800 000 people, essentially minority Tutsis, dead, according to a UN toll. - Sapa-AFP

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