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DRC: UN opens inquiry into reports of cannibalism
KINSHASA, 9 Jan 2003 (IRIN) - The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the
Congo, known as MONUC, announced on Wednesday it had opened investigations into
reports of cannibalism and human rights violations by rebels near the northeastern town
on Beni, North Kivu Province.
"A MONUC team has started the investigations [in the area] where 80,000 to 120,000
people are displaced," Patricia Tome, MONUC's chief of public information, told
reporters in the capital, Kinshasa.
The Bishop of Beni-Butembo, Monsignor Melchisedec Sikuli Paluku, and human rights
activists have accused the Mouvement pour la liberation du Congo (MLC), led by Jean-
Pierre Bemba, and its ally, the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie-National
(RCD-N) of practising cannibalism.
"Internally displaced people have reported that [the rebels] have eaten pygmies and
forced prisoners to eat their own ears, big toes and other body parts," Sikuli said.
Investigators have already interviewed 200 displaced people. Tome said those
interviewed were mostly rape victims, those whose properties were looted, those whose
animals were slaughtered, and witnesses to summary and extrajudicial executions.
However, she said, the investigators had not yet uncovered "precise information"
indicating cannibalism. The outcome of the investigation would be sent to the UN
Security Council. "Mbusa Nyamwisi [leader of the RCD-Kisangani-Mouvement de
Liberation [RCD-K/ML] has promised to hunt for those responsible for these violation,
and Jean-Pierre Bemba has promised to punish those responsible," Tome said.
The MLC and the RCD-N resumed fighting against the RCD-K-ML a day after signing an
UN-sponsored ceasefire accord in the northwestern town of Gbadolite on 30 December.
The renewed fighting has caused nearly 130,000 people to flee.