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DRC: IRIN interview with MONUC chief on latest Ituri massacre

KINSHASA, 8 October 2003 (IRIN) - William Swing, the UN Secretary-General's special representative to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and head of the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, known as MONUC, spoke to IRIN on Wednesday on the most recent massacre in the troubled northeastern district of Ituri.

This time the killings took place in Kashele, 15 km southeast of Bule, which is about 60 km northeast of Bunia, the main town of Ituri. The latest count indicated that at least 65 people, primarily women and children, had been killed. [See earlier IRIN story, "At least 55 killed in Kashele, Ituri District"]

At least 50,000 people have died and 500,000 have been displaced in Ituri since the most recent war in the country erupted in August 1998, due in large part to economically-motivated ethnic-based violence.

Swing explained what measures the mission was taking to avoid further massacres in a region where the UN had already deployed some 3,300 peacekeeping soldiers.

QUESTION: What is MONUC doing to shed light on the circumstances of this massacre?

ANSWER: First of all, we are continuing the work of Artemis [the EU-led peace-enforcement mission that was deployed from June to September], but with a mandate that covers not only Bunia, but also the entire District of Ituri, which is more or less the size of Sierra Leone, or Liberia. We are currently carrying out helicopter sorties every day. We have greatly increased our helicopter forces. We are now in the process of establishing three or four bases across Ituri for a more permanent deployment.

Q: When and where will these forces be deployed, other than Bunia?

A: No later then next week. I cannot give you the names of the villages, but they will be strategically located so that we can better control the movements of armed groups.

Q: This latest massacre has taken place despite the reinforced presence of 3,318 UN peacekeeping soldiers in Bunia. What measures is MONUC taking to ensure that this does not happen again?

A: As part of the helicopter sorties we have conducted during the past month, the locality of Kashele, where the massacre took place, was among the places being monitored. Unfortunately, we cannot be everywhere at all times, as was the case for Kashele on that particular day. But we arrived there only a few hours after receiving news [of the massacre]. We were on the spot with a multidisciplinary team of soldiers and humanitarian actors. We went back there the following day. And we are now continuing our investigation, not only in Kashele, but in the villages surrounding Kashele from where the people who committed these crimes had come.

Q: Has your inquiry yielded any information on who was responsible for this latest massacre?

A: Yes, we have ideas. We believe it involved ethnic-based elements. But I think it is better that the investigation be completed before speaking publicly on this.

Themes: (IRIN) Conflict



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