Rwandan Militias Seek Refuge in Congo

GOMA, Congo, Feb. 10, 2005 — -- The leaders of a genocide that resulted in the deaths of nearly 1 million people have regrouped, rearmed, and opened camps in the deep forests of Congo. The United Nations knows where the murderous Rwandan militias hide, according to a confidential map obtained by ABC News, but says it lacks the authority to go after and capture the killers.

"We would need a different mandate than the one we have now," admitted William Swing, head of the U.N. Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire). "The mandate from the United Nations Security Council."

Similar to the Rwanda genocide of 1994, the U.N. peacekeeping troops in the affected areas of Congo, some 11,000 in number, have the sanction to monitor the conflict and protect civilians and foreign aid workers, but not to seek out and stop the killers, known as Interahamwe and by their political groupings, FDLR and FOCA.

As of now, the countries that make up the U.N. Security Council, including the United States, have declined to authorize any armed intervention.

And a spokesperson at the State Department said there was no effort under way to change the mandate for the Congo mission. While there is concern about the continuing problem, a mandate change is not on the table right now, the spokesperson said.

Swing says the Interahamwe are "pillaging villages, they're raping women, they're stealing and they need to go." In the last few years, there have been a new rash of massacres on the Congo side of the border with Rwanda. Dozens of deaths are reported every month.

Fears of Another Genocide

These militias include some of the same men from the ethnic Hutu extremist groups that the United Nations says led the mass murders of people of Tutsi descent across the border in Rwanda 11 years ago.

Tutsi people have a long history in Congo, having settled in the Kivu provinces since their ancestors migrated generations ago from Rwanda and Burundi.

Tutsi leaders in eastern Congo say they fear another genocide is in the offing. "They know our Tutsi face, my nose is long," said Dunia Bakarani, a member of the Congolese parliament. "The same program from 1994 is continuing, until every Tutsi is dead."

Wamba dia Wamba, a Congolese senator, also sees similiarities to the conditions that led to the Rwandan genocide.

"It sounds like a replay," he said. "It is the same sort of feeling one may have that the U.N. knows where they are, where the camps are and then they don't want to do anything about it."

'A Key to Peace'

But Swing insisted that the United Nations was well aware of the importance of resolving the Interahamwe situation.

"It's critical and it's a key to regional peace and it's a key to peace within the Congo," he said. "The Congolese people are suffering greatly for this from this and we must stop it."

Otherwise, the consequences would be grave, said Barakani.

"Yes, if the international community doesn't do anything," he said. "You can be sure, another genocide is prepared here."