Some elements of the Bana Mura militia were reportedly chosen and used by State agents for their alleged magical powers in order to neutralize the sorcery used by the Kamuina Nsapu. The large scale and mass killings that have been perpetrated as part of attacks against peaceful villagers by the Bana Mura, with the support of local security forces, amount to crimes against humanity.
Members of the Tchokwe, Pende and Tetela communities formed armed groups from early April 2017 onwards, reportedly aimed at eliminating the Luba-speaking population of the Kasai province, and who referred to themselves as the Bana Mura. All refugees (including several children) who had visible injuries from gunshot, machete cuts, mutilations, or burns, interviewed in early 2017 by the OHCHR team in the hospitals or registration centers, were Luba and Lulua victims of the Bana Mura.
Individuals from the three ethnic groups interviewed by the OHCHR team claimed that the armed group was a self-defence group composed of members of the Tchokwe, Pende and Tetela communities, which was established to protect villages from the Kamuina Nsapu. Some Luba and Lulua refugees claimed to recognize inhabitants from their own villages among the Bana Mura. Other Luba and Lulua witnesses described militia members as originating from a different village from their own and having attacked the village following direct orders and careful planning by some local officials.
In early April 2017 the Chief of the groupement Muyeji, of the Tchokwe ethnic group, ordered that barriers be erected in Muyeji to prevent the inhabitants from Cinq fleeing to Tshikapa, the capital city of the Kasai province. Shortly after that, the traditional chiefs of the Tchokwe, Pende and Tetela communities reportedly held a meeting in the village of Chambwanda where weapons and money were allegedly distributed, and specific tasks were assigned to those present.
While the Kamuina Nsapu was reported to have conducted targeted killings – mostly of State agents and individuals suspected of practicing sorcery - since April 2017, the Bana Mura allegedly undertook a campaign aimed at eliminating the entire Luba and Lulua populations in the villages they attacked. The OHCHR team collected reports of five mass killings by the Bana Mura from 15 April to 9 May 2017, where large numbers of the Luba and Lulua population were massacred. During attacks, militia members reportedly shouted that the Luba should leave for Kasai Oriental province (to the east of Kasai province) and let the Kasai and Kasai Central provinces to the other ethnic groups.
Reportedly, the militia would hold meetings several days before their attacks on villages in order to plan them. The members of the militia were described as mostly speaking Tchokwe or Lingala and wearing bandanas made of white mosquito nets around their heads and bracelets made of leaves. Witnesses stated that they attacked the Luba and Lulua inhabitants of the villages, killing and beheading their victims, mutilating many with machetes, shooting them with hunting rifles, or burning them alive in their homes. There were also reported cases of sexual and gender-based violence. During attacks on Luba and Lulua communities, men, women and children were killed indiscriminately on the spot, on the streets or during house to house searches, never being given the option to leave.
The attacks by the Bana Mura appeared to be premediated, with the active involvement of identified local officials, namely members of security and defence forces as well as traditional leaders. In the village of Cinq (sometimes written Singe), for example, the non-Luba inhabitants were told to leave certain areas by local officials before an attack, leaving only Tchiluba-speakers in the villages. Barriers were reportedly erected on roads by the Bana Mura to prevent any Luba and Lulua who had survived the massacres in the villages from escaping.
A number of Luba and Lulua witnesses stated that during some attacks on villages, the Tchokwe members of Bana Mura called out “Katchokwe” – you the Tchokwe - and if a potential victim was unable to answer correctly “Laula” (wake up! in the Tchokwe language), he or she was killed. Interviewees alleged this was a clear sign proving an orchestrated plan to eliminate a specific group.
Luba refugees claimed that the FARDC had also begun ethnic-based killings during the period under review. Some refugees reported that due to a FARDC military operation against the Kamuina Nsapu in Kasai province during the month of June 2017, allegedly named “Opération éclair”, many Kamuina Nsapu elements had switched to wearing conventional clothes, without the usual red bandages on the head and arms, and were therefore indistinguishable from the Luba population in general. The FARDC allegedly responded by making no distinction between the militia and the wider Tchiluba-speaking population during military operations.
The actual number of killings is likely to be much higher since witnesses reported numerous other killings but the information was too imprecise to be corroborated with other sources. victims were killed mainly with machetes or knives, and a small number with a traditional hunting rifle known as Calibre. Many interviewees from all ethnic groups claimed there were no problems between the different communities in the Kasai province before the crisis erupted in 2016.
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