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U.N. report: Zairian rebels massacred refugees

rebel territory

April 8, 1997
Web posted at: 12:36 p.m. EDT (1636 GMT)

GENEVA (CNN) -- As Tutsi-led Zairian rebels pounded Zaire's second largest city Tuesday, a U.N. human rights investigator said they were responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians and Rwandan Hutu refugees during their fight to take over the country.

Forces led by Laurent Kabila were a few miles outside Lubumbashi, capital of the mineral-rich Shaba region, Tuesday morning. Government radio predicted Lubumbashi's imminent fall. With the capture of diamond capital Mbuji-Mayi on Friday, the rebels would control the basis of Zaire's economy.

kabila

But as the rebels pressed toward Zaire's capital Kinshasa, U.N. investigator Roberto Garreton submitted a report alleging that Kabila's troops have committed at least 40 mass murders in Northern and Southern Kivu provinces since their rebellion began last fall.

"What is described (in this report) is still going on, with complete impunity," Garreton wrote. "It is indisputable that (Kabila's army) is far from fulfilling its commitments to respect human rights."

mass graves

Garreton visited eastern Zaire late last month, where he was shown three sites in Northern Kivu alleged to hold mass graves and interviewed eyewitnesses and family members of those killed.

The number of people allegedly massacred was "undoubtedly exaggerated," Garreton said, but the reports are serious enough to warrant a through investigation and punishment for those found guilty.

Talks yield no solution

A fourth day of peace talks aimed at resolving the Zairian conflict ended Tuesday in South Africa with no answers, but South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki said the parties were developing "a spirit of mutual trust."

In a statement released jointly by the delegations, the parties said they had agreed to further talks.

"Both parties agreed on negotiations to bring about a peaceful political solution to the conflict," said the statement issued at a news conference attended by both delegations. "This necessitates a complete cessation of hostilities."

But while negotiators talked, rebel leader Kabila pledged no compromise in his drive to topple President Mobutu Sese Seko, who has ruled the country for 32 years. He said there would be no power sharing with the president or anyone who supports him.

"We welcome everyone in the country who refuses to be Mobutu's instrument," he said.

Meanwhile, in Washington the U.S. State Department flatly rejected charges by Kabila that U.S. military forces stationed near Zaire were prepared to interfere. Spokesman Nicholas Burns said the troops, in Gabon, the Congo and off the West African coast, would be used to evacuate American citizens if necessary.

 
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