SLEEPING THROUGH THE SLAUGHTER - Congo Part 2
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SLEEPING THROUGH THE SLAUGHTER - Congo Part 2
This was good, I thought, because tomorrow we would be able to confirm it. Except—oh, no, the expedition was cancelled because these murderous Robin Goodfellows might still be around, and that might make it dangerous. MONUSCO and the Human Rights Team had a point, but I failed to understand why the five-hour hike through unknown forest that we'd originally planned might have been any less dangerous. Cue more red wine. As I considered the limitations of this "mission," my Uruguayan compadres fed me Play-Doh scented long-life biscuits and South American maté tea. The doctor said the only good thing about the ration packs the UN provides is that they paralyse the bowel—no one enjoys a movement in a portaloo shared by 40 men. That night, Uruguay played arch rivals Venezuela in a World Cup qualifier. The two-way radio was rigged to deliver live commentary to one poor man’s camp bed; it strained under the weight of the whole platoon. I fell asleep to the nostalgic sound of grown men emoting over sport, and in the morning was told I'd missed a stunner. In the 85th minute, with Uruguay leading 1-0, Venezuela scored the equaliser. The narcoleptic UN Human Rights Team member, clearly on high alert, had jumped like an electrocuted cartoon from his fireside seat and run to the safe bosom of the platoon – he had confused the sound of men's hopes dashed with that of the Mutomboki coming to get him in his sleep. wahili and surprisingly cordial. "I greet you in peace," it said. "We are informing you of the war by Raia Mutomboki against FDLR to go back home to Rwanda... Based on the information we have, you are building a camp for them... We have a plan to come there and see if they are there. If they are there, encourage the Congolese to move away from the Hutus." It was a barely veiled threat towards the Hutus living in Katoyi. Bullet-points listed murder, rape and looting amongst the Rwandans' evil deeds. Two particularly bigoted bible verses endorsed the rationale. The chief also had a list of 120 people killed between the 17th and the 22nd of May by the Mutomboki—80 percent were women and children. In the next few days, I gathered statements that attested to many more. In Kahunde, at least 15 dead. Marembo, 20. Bitoyi, more. "They were trying to kill all the Kinyarwanda speakers in all the villages," a Congolese Hutu told me, shielding a seeping gunshot wound on his right arm. Then the chief revealed another document: a handwritten command structure for the Raia Mutomboki. The chief suggested Rwanda was arming the Mutomboki, a theory that, if proven, would fuel the international row over an allegedly Rwanda-backed uprising led by rebels that has now seized control of much of the province. It would suggest Rwandan complicity in the mass murder of Hutu people who largely originate from within its borders. “Nothing is what it seems in Congo," cautioned a sage Uruguayan. The words "nothing is what it seems" rang in my ears when a pink-cheeked red-head with curls and curves announced her arrival at the base. "How did you get here?" the platoon commander asked suspiciously, while I eavesdropped. "Motorbike," she said. MONUSCO had presented getting here as a Mission Impossible—"There are no roads to Katoyi," they said, just a helicopter or five-day hike. But here was this cute British chick, and—come to think of it—I’d seen a number of NGOs arrive and depart in wholly-unmodified 4x4s. When another helicopter landed, bringing the deputy brigade commander for a strategy meeting, the sole portaloo surrendered to the power of the rotors blades and extended its welcome by shedding all four walls to reveal a free-standing bowl that looked almost poetic in the morning mist. The commander had but one pressing question: "Have you been able to confirm these massacres?" The platoon commander summed up the military’s position. From a helicopter, he had seen only life as normal. "We have not been able to reach the villages. The reports are hearsay,” he said. The Head of Mission cut in with a defence of his team's position. "We came to verify. We talked to 45 people… separately and confidentially," he said. When pushed to give a figure, he estimated at least 200 dead. "But have you seen anything with your own eyes?" asked the commander. The Human Rights Team had conducted a four-day investigation from plastic patio chairs in the center of the base, herding witnesses in and out like cattle. Now it was time to go home, their findings constituted a success, and would be written up with exactitude to produce an internal report based on "hearsay."
Curated by Dillan Jerzy
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