VII / Human Rights Watch / Newsweek
"We Made a Promise - Never Again"
Fourteen years after the Rwandan genocide, Hutu and Tutsi ethnic tension overflows in neighboring Congo. 250,000 people have been displaced over the past weeks and Hutu militia, government soldiers, and Tutsi warlords battle against each other in the hills of Kivu province. The international community watches silently. A shaky ceasefire between the Congolese army and Laurent Nkunda’s troops fell apart in late August and skirmishes between them have continued.
Nkunda, who leads the dissident soldiers, says he is defending the interests of Congolese Tutsi, a minority group of which he is a member. He claims that the Tutsi of North Kivu, where he is based, will lack adequate protection if he permits his troops to be fully integrated into the national army and deployed to posts elsewhere in Congo.
His forces have also fought FDLR combatants, many of whom are Rwandan Hutu or members of Congolese groups related to the Hutu. At times the FDLR have fought against Congolese army troops but on other occasions, they have cooperated with soldiers of the government army. In recent operations, FDLR were said to be fighting with government troops against Nkunda.
In addition to killing and abducting scores of civilians, soldiers have engaged in widespread rape and in the looting and destruction of property. All forces used child soldiers and some commanders tried to prevent international child protection agencies from locating and removing children them from their ranks.
THIS IMAGE: Child Soldiers of the Mai Mai wait in Kanyabyongo as the CNDP advance. This child was a voluntary recruit who heard the CNDP were abducting children to fight and he wanting to protect his village and his people. The garlands on his head protect him from evil spirits and as a Mai Mai he believes that bullets will pass off him like water. Manny Mai Mai will not touch the "unclean" and things are passed between each other by placing things on the floor and chanting, throwing dirt on the article to clean it.