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HIDDEN HORRORS: A special report.; Uncovering the Guilty Footprints Along Zaire's Long Trail of Death

Published on by KANYARWANDA

HIDDEN HORRORS: A special report.; Uncovering the Guilty Footprints Along Zaire's Long Trail of Death

(Page 4 of 5)

At the largest such camp, in Loukolela, remain about 6,000 refugees who had once been at Tingi Tingi and Ubundu. Most are men, many undoubtedly former Hutu militia members suspected in the genocide in Rwanda, United Nations officials say. The majority of women and children had presumably died on the march, or returned home.

One survivor was Dr. Kabakira, who was working as camp physician. ''So many of the people I have known are dead,'' he said in October. ''For myself I consider it a miracle to be alive.''

The Evidence

U.N. Wants to Begin With Freshest Site

The clearest atrocities documented so far occurred at Mbandaka. Dozens of townspeople there told journalists and aid workers in early June that the rebels massacred between 200 and 2,000 Hutu.

The United Nations team has said that is where it wants to begin its investigation. The forensic evidence is the freshest and, although there have been credible reports of a cleanup effort, Mr. Kabila's troops would have had less time to dispose of the bodies in Mbandaka than elsewhere. There are witnesses among the villagers whose testimony cannot be dismissed as Hutu propaganda.

''There are pretty solid indications that many of the sites have been cleaned up,'' a United Nations investigator said, referring to mass graves in other parts of Congo. ''From a prosecutorial point of view you start from where the best evidence is the most easily accessible.''

In one of the few extensive reports on the massacres, the advocacy group Human Rights Watch concluded that Rwandan Hutu were deliberately massacred by Mr. Kabila's forces. The rebel army, the report said, ''repeatedly demonstrated throughout the war a specific intent to hunt down and kill civilian refugees as well as armed exiles from Rwanda.''

The author of the report, Scott Campbell, a former United Nations human rights monitor, uncovered evidence in August of massacres in three villages in western Congo, along a 50-mile stretch of road outside Mbandaka.

In an interview, Mr. Campbell said he saw the remains of at least 60 refugees along the road, including women and children. He also identified two mass graves and talked to at least 25 local villagers, many of whom said they had seen rebels execute dozens of refugees in early May. There had been no fighting in the region, he said. The dead could not be combatants.

Another documented massacre site was discovered in March, when Karin Davies, a reporter for The Associated Press, found about 100 bodies, mostly women and children, in the eastern Congolese village of Musenge, 75 miles northwest of Bukavu. A local chief told Ms. Davies that they were refugees massacred by rebels in December after being luring to the spot with a promise of trucks to carry them home. A rebel doctor, however, said the victims died in battles with Hutu militiamen hiding among the refugees.

The investigation of the massacres is complicated by widespread suspicion of the motives of nearly all parties involved.

Many Central African nations blame the United Nations and the United States for their handling of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and believe that they are pressing the investigation now to divert attention from their mistakes. In their view, neither heeded warnings about the Rwandan genocide or did anything to stop it. The United Nations, they say, then prolonged the bloodletting by allowing refugee camps in Congo to shelter and feed thousands of Hutu militiamen who had carried out the genocide.

France saw the defeat of its patron Mr. Mobutu as a defeat for its policy in Africa, and has been a driving force for a thorough accounting of abuses by Mr. Kabila's forces.

Refugee agencies were widely suspected of inflating the numbers of refugees to insure that they had enough money to help them.

The United States, which had provided training to the Rwandan Army, also faces questions from Congress and human rights groups about its role, in particular when it first learned of Rwanda's involvement in Congo and what steps it took to find out if American-trained soldiers were involved in atrocities. Many in Europe and Africa perceive Washington as being sympathetic to Mr. Kabila and, despite official denials, suspect it of having assisted the rebels.

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