posted on May, 30 2003 @ 05:58 AM
Who in the world is supposed to intervene to prevent this kind of thing????
Death in the Congo: a mother watches as machete militiamen murder her little girls
By Adrian Blomfield in Bunia
From her hiding place in the woods outside the Congolese town of Bunia, Ruta Bonabingi watched as militiamen roasted and then ate the severed arms of
her dying daughters. It was the horrifying finale to 48 hours of terror for Ruta and her family.
Three weeks after ethnic violence engulfed Bunia and the surrounding Ituri province, crazed gunmen stormed Shar, five miles outside the town. Shooting
or hacking to death anyone they came across, they torched every home in the village.
Ruta managed to escape with most of her family, although two of her brothers were killed before they reached safety in the nearby forest.
After pressing deeper into the woods for two days without food and water, she thought she had finally reached safety when out of nowhere the
militiamen, from the Lendu tribe, struck again.
With bullets flying everywhere in the hail of gunfire that ensued Ruta became separated from two of her daughters, Mateso, aged 12, and Michelle, who
had just turned two.
After securing the rest of her family in another hiding place, Ruta crept back to the clearing to try to rescue the girls.
"There were many people wounded from bullets lying on the ground," she said.
"The Lendu were going about with machetes, chopping off one arm from the shoulder and then the other. Some people were screaming but most were
silent. Then I saw them. Their arms had already been cut off."
The militiamen calmly cooked the flesh over an open fire before throwing their victims, some of whom were still alive, into the flames. "They were
both moving, although very weakly," Ruta said. It is accounts like this that have galvanised the horrified world into action.
The United Nations Security Council meets today to finalise plans for a rapid reaction force, led by France, which could be in Bunia by as early as
next week. Tony Blair has hinted that Britain could send several hundred soldiers to the region later.
The latest violence in one of the Democratic Republic of Congo's bloodiest provinces erupted in the first week of May as Uganda withdrew its troops
in compliance with a peace plan to end the five-year war.
Despite the presence of the 700 UN peacekeepers already in Bunia to monitor the withdrawal, rival Hema and Lendu tribesmen fought viciously for
supremacy in the town.
The peacekeepers had repeatedly warned the UN that a bloodbath was likely and requested reinforcements.
They were ignored. Lacking the firepower, equipment or mandate to intervene, they retreated powerless to their compound and watched.
No one knows how many have died. The Red Cross has found 415 bodies on the streets or in mass graves, and may just be the tip of the iceberg. There
are fears that thousands more were killed in outlying villages. At least 50,000 people have been victims of violence in Ituri since 1998.
The Congo conflict has claimed between 3.1 and 4.7 million lives, mainly from war-related hunger and disease, since it began, making it the world's
deadliest war since 1945.
Bunia itself was relatively calm yesterday although an occasional explosion, possibly caused by landmines, rocked the outskirts of the town. Few dared
to venture out on to the streets, however. The town is virtually empty after Lendus, who made up the majority of the population, fled into the hills
following the Hema capture of the town last week.
Along the town's main street shop doors hung drunkenly from their hinges. Windows on many buildings were smashed, their contents looted. The few
establishments that escaped pillaging were firmly shuttered. A Hema boy, aged no more than eight or nine, sauntered down the street dressed in a
ridiculously oversized military uniform, his camouflage jacket flapping about his calves.
He disappeared into a building for a moment and re-emerged casually swinging an AK47 from his hip.
A pick-up truck filled with grim-faced Hema soldiers and mounted with a fearsomely large machinegun roared down the street.
At the top of the road, two armoured personnel carriers manned by Uruguayan soldiers guarded the UN compound, barely visible behind 8ft-high
protective barriers of razor wire.
Hundreds of Bunia's terrified residents, both Hema and to a lesser extent Lendu, remain in the compound where they fled when the fighting erupted.
Alarmingly, the town's radio station, now in Hema hands, gave warning this week that anyone who did not leave the camp immediately would be treated
as "an enemy of state", according to UN officials.
The move has chilling echoes of hate radio during Rwanda's 1994 genocide when broadcasts urged Hutus to fill up the half-empty graves.
Many appear to have heeded the call, but Basara Mateso prefers to take his chances with the UN. He fled to the compound when the Lendu attacked his
predominantly Hema suburb two weeks ago.
As he fled, he became separated from two of his seven children. When he ventured back a few hours later he found the bodies of both his teenage
daughters, hacked to death with machetes.
"Ngathi was cut across the chest," he said. "Mami's head was missing. Both of them were without their hearts and their livers. Their bellies had
been cut open."
Missionaries, Catholic priests and foreign aid workers have all confirmed that some Lendu militiamen have been eating their victims' hearts and
livers, apparently in the superstitious belief that it would make them invincible.