afrol News, 26 May - The Mai Mai rebel group of eastern Congo Kinshasa is presently holding 26 foreign rebels and demanding the pull back of the troops of Uganda and their local allies to release the hostages. Concerns are raised for the security of the civilan population caught in middlle.
- Deployments of Ugandan and local rebel forces in response to a hostage situation in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) pose a serious threat to the security of the civilian population, the US group Human Rights Watch said in a statement yesterday.
The organisation says it "both deplores the hostage-taking by the Mai-Mai, a militia opposed to foreign occupation of the DRC, and is deeply concerned about possible reprisals by the Ugandan army and its Congolese rebel allies against the local population because of their alleged support for the Mai-Mai."
On May 15, the Mai-Mai abducted 26 persons, including a Kenyan, Swede and twenty-four Thai nationals, at the compound of DARA-Forest, a Thai-Ugandan logging company, near the town of Mangina.
Negotiations for release of the hostages broke down when the Mai-Mai insisted on the pullback of soldiers from the occupying Ugandan army and from the local Ugandan ally, the Front for the Liberation of Congo (FLC).
- All sides must show restraint so as to avoid endangering the lives of the hostages and jeopardizing the security of the local population, said Suliman Baldo, Senior Researcher for the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, who recently completed a mission to the area. "Unfortunately, the international community is not giving this matter the attention it deserves."
The Mai-Mai are demanding that representatives of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Congo (MONUC) and of one or more embassies in the region observe the negotiations. Among the nations whose representatives would make acceptable observers, the Mai-Mai named the United States, France, Belgium, Sudan, Libya, Zimbabwe, and Angola. Zimbabwe and Angola are allied with the government of Congo, now at war with Uganda and the FLC.
In the past the Ugandan forces and their local allies have tried to win over Mai-Mai into their ranks, but in other cases they have fought against them.
Human Rights Watch documented extra-judicial executions of wounded Mai-Mai combatants by Ugandan soldiers in August 2000 and reprisal killings of civilians thought to support the Mai-Mai by Ugandan soldiers and Congolese rebels in late 2000. These incidents took place in the same region where the hostages are currently held.
Moreover, according to several UN agencies, a humanitarian crisis currently is unfolding in the
entire eastern Congo region. According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), "desperate men, women and children begin arriving in towns in search of help, after years of isolation due to civil conflict."
Sources: Based on Human