Ten Dead In Latest DR Congo Massacre

 

Ten people were killed overnight Sunday in eastern DR Congo, where massacres of civilians by a rebel group have sparked protests against UN peacekeepers, local officials said.

Ten civilians were killed in the village of Kamango, a day after 22 were murdered in Ntombi, Donat Kibuana, administrator for the territory of Beni, told AFP on Monday.

“The 22 who were killed in Ntombi had not even been buried when other civilians were killed, in Kamango,” he said.

“Ten bodies have been brought to the morgue so far.”

Pascal Saambili, a traditional leader in Watalinga district, blamed the latest attack on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a militia accused of hundreds of civilian deaths.

“The ADF burst into Kamango at nightfall. They killed civilians with machetes and guns. So far, we have recovered 10 bodies. There are also nine injured.”

“The people are in disarray.”

Faustin Basweki, who heads an association for young people in Kamango, said he had witnessed the massacre.

“When troops arrived, the terrorists gave the order to pull out and leave Kamango, speaking in Kiganda,” a language spoken in nearby Uganda, whose border lies 15 kilometres (eight miles) away, he said.

The ADF — a militia whose historical roots lie in Uganda and jihadism — has been active in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo since the Congo Wars of the 1990s.

The group has killed more than 1,000 civilians since October 2014, according to the not-for-profit Congo Research Group (CRG).

DRC forces launched operations against the ADF in the eastern region at the end of October.

In response the ADF has killed scores of civilians in an apparent bid to discourage the public from helping the military.

The massacres have unleashed a wave of anger, especially in the city of Beni, where local people have accused the large UN force in DRC of failing to protect them.

The UN force has pointed out that anti-ADF operations were launched by government forces, and has insisted it is trying to find a solution to keep the population safe.

AFP

27 Murdered Victims Buried In DR Congo

People gather in Oicha, on November 29, 2019, as 27 victims of the latest massacre in the country’s volatile east were being buried with hundreds paying homage while lashing out at security forces for failing to stop attacks. 
Bienvenu-Marie BAKUMANYA / AFP

 

The Democratic Republic of Congo town of Oicha on Friday buried 27 victims of the latest massacre in the country’s volatile east, with hundreds paying homage while lashing out at security forces for failing to stop attacks.

Mourners gathered in silence around the tiny morgue of Oicha, located near the Ugandan border and east of the DRC town of Beni, the scene of repeated deadly strikes.

Workers wore face masks as they wrapped the decomposing corpses in shrouds. They were barefoot in line with local tradition out of respect for the deceased.

Wooden crosses marked the graves and many wept as the bodies were lowered.

During the mass funerals, gunfire broke out from the nearby bush but it was unclear who was firing.

“My neighbour, who was my son’s mother-in-law, had her throat slit and was then cut up,” said Kahindo Kamabu, a woman in her fifties.

“I am very sad but I’m not crying any more as I want to tell these murderers that we are strong and dignified despite our pain.”

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Janvier Kasahirio, the head of a local youth association, said: “We found the remains of our brothers in pieces,” adding that some of the victims had been burnt.

He said they found the bodies in the bush.

The victims were hacked to death with machetes on Wednesday, taking to 107 the number of people killed in and around Beni since November 5.

The vast majority of the killings have been carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a militia that has plagued the Democratic Republic of Congo’s east since the 1990s.

‘Chopped Up Like Meat’

“I recognised my aunt from her clothes,” said Rosette Kashauri.

“Her face was barely recognisable. Her body was chopped up like the meat one sells in the market. I am sad and angry,” she said.

The massacres have sparked protests against the local United Nations peacekeeping mission, known by its French acronym MONUSCO.

“It’s unthinkable that people kill the local population and that the young go to look for bodies while soldiers watch them,” said Moise Kakule.

On Friday, a DR Congo soldier was killed by civilians who mistook him for an ADF fighter, the army and a local official said.

The soldier opened fire as he saw local youth approaching him, before running out of ammunition, local leader Donat Kibwana added.

A general shutdown was observed in Oicha as well as in Goma, the main city in DRC’s east, in solidarity with the beleaguered residents of Beni and Oicha.

On Friday, the ADF released 12 hostages, including two women and some children, local residents said.

They said the released hostages carried back pamphlets exhorting locals to embrace Islam and stop cooperating with security forces.

Some said they had paid ransom to the ADF to secure the release of relatives.

“My four children were kidnapped by the ADF,” said 35-year-old Reagan Kimbu. “They were released against a payment of $4,500 (4,000 euros).”

The UN refugee agency meanwhile said there was an exodus of locals from Oicha to Beni, about 30 kilometres (20 miles) away.

“Alarming reports from the region suggest people being trapped and under threat from the armed groups, with daily reports of loss of life,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said on Friday.

“Abductions and attacks on schools, health centres and indigenous communities are also on the rise,” it said.

“Information is difficult to verify, as the movement of humanitarian workers is restricted due to insecurity around the city and in the territory of Beni, as a result of violence.”

AFP

Philippines Marks Massacre Anniversary With Calls For Justice

 

Relatives of 58 people slain in the Philippines’ worst political massacre held a tearful vigil Saturday to mark a decade since the killings, voicing anger at the slow pace of justice.

Tearful family members lit candles and released white balloons as children sang a chorus calling for justice at a southern Philippine town where 58 people, including 32 media workers, were slaughtered and dumped in roadside pits in November 2009.

“We have known for a long time who the guilty parties are. They must come out with the rightful decision now,” Jergin Malabanan, whose mother was among the journalists killed in one of the world’s deadliest ever attacks on media workers, told AFP.

Malabanan, who was 15 at the time, became the sole breadwinner for herself and four younger siblings with the death of her mother Gina de la Cruz, who was separated from her husband.

Ampatuan family dynasty leaders, who ruled the impoverished southern province of Maguindanao, are charged with organising the killing in a bid to quash an election challenge from local rival Esmael Mangudadatu.

The case has dragged on for years, with allegations of bribery and delay tactics against the defence, which once included Salvador Panelo, President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman.

The trial ended in July, but the Supreme Court gave the lower court judge until December 20 to go over the evidence on which her verdict on some 100 defendants will be based.

A low-flying military helicopter dropped a shower of flowers Saturday as about a thousand relatives, journalists, friends and local officials gathered around a hilltop concrete marker where the 58 victims’ names were inscribed.

“Let us keep our guard up,” Mangudadatu, now a member of the House of Representatives, told the relatives, warning them the killers would likely use the appeals courts against any unfavourable verdict.

“We expect that my brother and the rest of the victims will finally get justice soon,” Freddie Ridao, a member of the executive council of the nearby city of Cotabato told AFP.

Though the Ampatuans no longer hold top elected posts in Maguindanao, official results show at least 25 of them, including one of the principal defendants who is out on bail, won local seats in May’s elections.

Mali Army Tightens Security After Massacre

Officials and residents stand near ashes on June 11, 2019 in the Dogon village of Sobane-Kou, near Sangha, after an attack that killed over 100 ethnic Dogon on June 9, 2019 evening.
STRINGER / AFP

 

Mali’s army reinforced security Wednesday around two ethnic Dogon villages where 41 people were killed, according to a UN count, as survivors recounted how attackers from a rival community identified victims one by one before executing them.

Monday’s attack on the Gangafani and Yoro villages was the latest in a cycle of tit-for-tat violence between the Dogon and Fulani communities in the tense ethnic patchwork at the centre of Mali.

Mali’s government said Wednesday the army had dispatched a contingent to reinforce security and protect property in the villages near the border with Burkina Faso.

Just across the border in the north Burkina Faso village of Belehede, jihadist fighters killed 17 civilians in a raid overnight Tuesday, Burkinabe Defence Minister Cheriff Sy said.

An internal UN MINUSMA peacekeeping mission report seen by AFP put the death toll at 41, higher than an earlier official toll of 38 with “numerous” injured.

The UN added that more than 750 people had fled the villages where survivors and officials say Fulani gunmen arrived by motorbike before massacring people in “revenge” over suspicions that they had collaborated with the Malian army.

In addition, the MINUSMA report said five Malian soldiers were killed in an ambush “by presumed extremist elements” Tuesday in Fatal, a village in the Timbuktu commune of Gourma Rharous.

The authorities did not immediately comment on the information.

‘They killed them in front of us’

Abdoulaye Goro, a security guard, told AFP he had been travelling by truck to his father’s funeral near the two villages, when about forty armed men intercepted the vehicle and forced the passengers into the bush.

“They did identity checks and they only looked for the people from Yoro and Gangafani, and all those who were from those two villages were set apart,” Goro said. “They killed them in front of us, with rifles, and released us afterwards.”

The attack follows a massacre of 35 people earlier this month in another Dogon village, Sobane Da.

The UN says the wave of ethnic violence has killed hundreds since the start of last year.

Ethnic tensions in central Mali surged after a jihadist group led by preacher Amadou Koufa emerged in 2015 and recruited mainly from among the Fulani. Clashes increased with Dogon and Bambara who formed their own self-defence militias.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita appealed for or an end to revenge attacks after he visited the site of the Sobane Da massacre.

But despite military help from France and the United Nations, Mali’s government is struggling to calm violence that began in the north of the country in 2012, sparked by radical Islamist and Tuareg militias.

In March this year, in the bloodiest raid, 160 Fulani were killed in an attack on Ogossagou village by suspected militiamen from a rival ethnic group.

Arrived by motorbike

During Monday’s attack, witness Goro said, the gunmen blamed inhabitants for having “cooperated” with the Malian and Burkinabe military about 15 days ago in a raid in the neighbouring town of Dinagourou.

At the local level, “there is a dispute between the people of Gangafani and Yoro against the Fulani,” Goro said.

“Our kidnappers were taking revenge,” the security guard said.

Local officials said the situation has calmed down, but residents were shocked how the gunmen were able to arrive en masse by motorbike even after the government imposed a ban on the vehicles as a way to tighten security.

“The attackers arrived on more than 100 motorcycles, so we need to strengthen security,” said Amidou Maiga, a local retired civil servant. “People are frightened.”

The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, said in May it had recorded nearly 500 deaths in attacks on Fulanis in the central regions of Mopti and Segou since January 2018.

Armed Fulanis caused 63 deaths among civilians in the Mopti region over the same period, it said.

The Fulani are primarily cattle breeders and traders, while the Bambara and Dogon ethnic groups are traditionally sedentary farmers.

Central Africa Holds Three Days’ Mourning Over Massacre

central african republic, violence

The leader of the Central African Republic proclaimed three days of mourning starting Thursday for more than 50 people killed this week in a massacre attributed to an armed group called 3R.

The public display of sorrow was to honour the victims of the killings that took place Tuesday in villages near the northwestern town of Paoua, close to the border with Chad, as well as the murder of a 77-year-old French-Spanish nun in the southwest of the country whose beheaded body was found Monday, according to the decree by President Faustin-Archange Touadera.

The slaughter near Paoua was the biggest single loss of life since the government and 14 militias signed a deal in February aimed at restoring peace to one of Africa’s most troubled countries.

The UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, MINUSCA, revised up its death toll from the northwest massacre to more than 50, from a previous count of more than 30.

According to one UN source, the 3R group — which gets its initials from “Return, Reclamation and Reconciliation” and claims to represent the Fulani, one of the country’s many ethnic groups — hosted a meeting with the villagers and then gunned them down indiscriminately.

MINUSCA and the country’s authorities on Wednesday gave the 3R group until the end of the week to hand over the suspected perpetrators of the massacre.

AFP

India Marks 100th Anniversary Of Amritsar Massacre

Indian National Congress party president Rahul Gandhi (C), Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh (3R), Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu (2R), Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar (5L in white) look at the guards of honour’s performance to pay tribute on the 100th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre at the Jallianwala Bagh martyrs memorial in Amritsar on April 13, 2019.  NARINDER NANU / AFP

 

Britain’s high commissioner to India laid a wreath on Saturday on the 100th anniversary of the Amritsar massacre, one of the worst atrocities of colonial rule for which London is still to apologise.

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre, as it is known in India, saw British troops fire on thousands of unarmed men, women and children in the northern city of Amritsar on the afternoon of April 13, 1919.

The number of casualties from the event, which galvanised support for independence, is unclear. Colonial-era records put the death toll at 379, but Indian figures put the number closer to 1,000.

Even 100 years on, Britain has still made no official apology and Dominic Asquith, high commissioner, on Saturday followed suit at the Jallianwala Bagh walled garden where bullet marks are still visible.

“You might want to re-write history, as the Queen said, but you can’t,” Asquith said.

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“What you can do, as the Queen said, is to learn the lessons of history. I believe strongly we are. There is no question that we will always remember this. We will never forget what happened here.”

In the memorial’s guest book Asquith, a descendant of Herbert Asquith, prime minister from 1908-16, called the events “shameful”.

“We deeply regret what happened and the suffering caused,” he wrote.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a tweet called the tragedy “horrific” and that the memory of those killed “inspires us to work even harder to build an India they would be proud of.”

Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi was present in Amritsar and on Twitter called the massacre “a day of infamy that stunned the entire world and changed the course of the Indian freedom struggle.”

In a visit in 2013 then British prime minister David Cameron described what happened as “deeply shameful” but stopped short of an apology.

In 1997, Queen Elizabeth II laid a wreath at the site but her gaffe-prone husband Prince Philip stole the headlines by reportedly saying that Indian estimates for the death count were “vastly exaggerated”.

On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons that the massacre was “a shameful scar on British Indian history”.

“We deeply regret what happened and the suffering caused,” May said, but she, too, avoided saying she was sorry.

Amarinder Singh, chief minister of Punjab state, said May’s words were not enough.

He said “an unequivocal official apology” is needed for the “monumental barbarity”.

Singh said thousands attended a candlelight march Friday in memory of the victims ahead of a commemoration ceremony later on Saturday.

 High walls 

Around 10,000 unarmed men, women and children had gathered in the Jallianwala Bagh walled public garden in Amritsar on April 13, 1919.

Many were angry about the recent extension of repressive measures and the arrest of two local leaders that had sparked violent protests three days before.

The 13th of April was also a big spring festival, and the crowd — estimated by some at 20,000 — included pilgrims visiting the nearby Golden Temple sacred to Sikhs.

Brigadier General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer arrived with dozens of troops, sealed off the exit and without warning ordered the soldiers to open fire.

Many tried to escape by scaling the high walls surrounding the area. Others jumped into a deep, open well at the site as the troops fired.

One of several eyewitness accounts compiled by two historians and published in the Indian Express newspaper this week described the horror.

“Heaps of dead bodies lay there, some on their backs and some with their faces upturned. A number of them were poor innocent children. I shall never forget the sight,” said Ratan Devi, whose husband was killed.

 ‘Monstrous’ 

Dyer, dubbed “The Butcher of Amritsar”, said later the firing was “not to disperse the meeting but to punish the Indians for disobedience”.

Indian newspapers this week repeated their calls for an apology for a massacre that Winston Churchill, then secretary of state for war, called “monstrous”.

“But even in the centenary year of the massacre, Britain has refused to… take that important step,” the Hindustan Times said in an editorial. May’s statement was “perhaps qualitatively a notch stronger… but is far from enough.”

AFP

Zimbabwe To Exhume, Rebury Victims Of Gukurahundi Massacre

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Zimbabwe on Wednesday said it will exhume and rebury thousands of victims massacred during the 1980s state crackdown against dissidents, as part of a slew of measures to bring closure to one of the country’s dark moments.

Citing a justice ministry official, the state-owned Herald newspaper said the government will offer medical assistance to survivors as well as issue death and birth certificates for victims of the brutal crackdown that claimed the lives of around 20,000 perceived political dissidents.

The campaign unleashed by an elite North Korean-trained military unit shortly after independence, is known infamously as Gukurahundi, which means “the rain that washes away chaff” in the local Shona language.

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Government will “facilitate the exhumation and reburial of Gukurahundi victims,” the paper quoted justice ministry secretary, Virginia Mabhiza as saying.

“We are also implementing protection mechanisms for those affected by Gukurahundi to be free to discuss their experiences. Some people are still suffering from various pains inflicted on them during the disturbances,” she said.

Rights groups say at least 20,000 people, most of them civilians, were killed by the crack unit deployed in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces between 1983 to 1987 to crush dissidents opposed to the then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe’s rule.

Mugabe, who was overthrown in 2017 following a brief military takeover, refused to acknowledge wrong-doing only calling it “a moment of madness.”

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former close ally of Mugabe, was minister of state security at the time of the crackdown which has tainted the country’s rights record.

AFP