EYE WITNESS ACCOUNT OF A MASSACRE IN CONGO
By Paul Ndiho,
January 16, 2011
A trial is underway at the International Criminal Court looking into a massacre that left hundreds of Hema and Lendu dead in eastern Congo in 2003. More than ten years ago, Voice Of America’s Paul Ndiho was a reporter embedded with rebel groups supported by Uganda, and he recorded killings that took place in Bogoro and Nyekunde villages Bunia, Ituri province. Please be advised that this video is very graphic and viewer discretion is advised.
Two Congolese warlords are on trial at the International Criminal Court on charges they instructed their subordinates to attack civilians, rape women and enlist child soldiers in what has been called “the greatest armed conflict” since World War II. Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo are charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes. Prosecutors say they led mobs of child soldiers and militiamen to destroy the village of Bogoro in Congo’s mineral-rich Ituri province on Feb. 24, 2003, hacking to death many of their victims with machetes. Similar attacks between other ethnic groups in Congo had been taking place for several years.
From 1999 – 2001, I was embedded with rebel factions in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. But nothing prepared me for the violence I witnessed there in 2001.
One morning I was caught in the middle of the Lendu militia attacks against the Hema in Nyekunde, in a village south of Bunia. In this and other villages, scores of people were killed and thousands were driven from their homes.
What started as a land dispute between two normally peaceful groups grew into a larger clash when Ugandan forces entered the region? The Ugandan forces sided with
The Hema, and this favoritism caused a backlash from the Lendu, leading to the widespread killing.
According to eyewitness accounts, the Lendu attacked the Hema in Nyekunde at dawn, killing everyone they encountered, including women and children. A cloud of heavy smoke covered the village. The stench from the burning bodies was unbearable. That same night, the Lendu militia also invaded Nyekunde hospital, where hundreds of people were hiding and cut them into pieces. Scores of other nearby villages were burned to the ground. I saw several mass graves where a hundreds of people were being buried, and the Hema was armed with bow and arrows, ready to defend their village.
It was this kind of carnage in 2001 for which Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo are now facing charges at the International Criminal Court. It was some of the worst violence between the Hema and Lendu in recent decades in eastern Congo.
Please Note: This is a slighted edited version of the original story that was published in January 2011