Rights group decries atrocities by "false" Mayi-Mayi factions

A human rights group has protested against the impunity with which certain Mayi-Mayi factions in the isolated region of Malemba Nkulu in central Katanga Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo continue to terrorise local populations, perpetrating widespread acts of pillage, murder and even cannibalism.

The allegations are contained in a report issued on Monday by the local NGO Commission de vulgarisation des droits de l'homme et de developpement (CVDHO), based in the city of Lubumbashi in southern Katanga.

The report singles out a certain Kabale Makana a Nshimba and his followers as being ringleaders of rampant human rights abuses in the region, where they have installed themselves as the de facto rulers in the absence of an authoritative local government.

Kabale and his followers were reportedly among some 8,000 Mayi-Mayi disarmed in early February by the provincial governor, Aime Ngoy Mukena Lusa. At the time, human rights activists protested that authorities had disarmed the militants - widely accused of cannibalism - without having initiated criminal proceedings against them.

"The governor of Katanga presented the militia leaders and the population of Musau with motorcycles, bicycles, salt and second-hand clothing, but nothing was said about any future judicial investigation into the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law of which Makabe, Gedeon, Kabale, Mangi and their fanatically devoted henchmen are guilty," said the Centre des droits de l'homme et du droit humanitaire, a human rights NGO based in Lubumbashi, in a statement issued on 12 February.

The CVDHO was equally unsparing in its criticism. "This horde... has deviated from its primary objective, which is to protect civilians from enemy military forces, to instead prey upon the people it was meant to defend," the report states. "Dressed as a bunch of unkempt thugs, wearing genital organs or skulls of their victims as amulets, they are a bunch of mystical cannibalistic false Mayi-Mayi who have never confronted the enemy [ostensibly the Rwandan-backed Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD-Goma) rebel group], located only 50 km away in Kipuzi."

The report concludes with an appeal to the international community to establish a commission of inquiry into the alleged violations with a view to bringing those responsible before the International Criminal Court. It also requests humanitarian assistance for the people of the region.