DRC: June 2000 'Six Day War' Victims Still Awaiting Compensation

In the absence of an official ceremony, survivors and civil society organizations are commemorating the "Six Day War" with whatever means at hand

DRC: June 2000 'Six Day War' Victims Still Awaiting Compensation

In the absence of an official ceremony, survivors and civil society organizations are commemorating the "Six Day War" with whatever means at hand. The conflict, which devastated Kisangani, in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), may have left lasting traces in the minds and in the very heart of the former Stanleyville, it was not completely pay. Thursday, June 8, a conference brought together 200 people in the Notre-Dame du Très-Saint-Rosaire cathedral and an ecumenical service is planned for Saturday in one of the city's cemeteries, but the victims are still awaiting reparations.

Kisangani's "Six Day War" was one of the bloodiest episodes of the Second Congo War (1998-2003). From June 5 to 10, 2000, Rwandan and Ugandan armies clashed in the heart of this city in the province of Tshopo. Intense and uninterrupted fighting, which claimed more than 1,000 civilian victims and several hundred injured. Many buildings were destroyed and the city still bears the scars.

James Lotika Bangala, who now lives in Kinshasa, the Congolese capital, was in his twenties at the time. “The war started on a Monday, around 9:45 a.m., remembers the lawyer. When the first shot was heard, I was in class. The second shell fell in the yard. There was blood everywhere. I received five shrapnel in the right leg. My friend Francis Mambani died in my arms after being shot in the head. I had to run away. His body was lying on the ground. »

Kampala has started to pay its war debt

“The city was on fire. My eldest daughter, then 13 years old, lost her life. I don't know where she was buried because several people were taken to mass graves. Some corpses were decomposing in the streets and were eaten by dogs. Women have been raped,” said Freddy Makoba, executive secretary of the Association of War Victims of Kisangani, in a bruised voice.

Twenty-three years later, neither Rwanda nor Uganda has issued an apology. In February 2022, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) condemned Kampala to pay 325 million dollars to the DRC for the damage caused during its military intervention between 1998 and 2003. A decision which follows the judgment rendered by the same institution seventeen years earlier, establishing Ugandan responsibility. On September 1 of each year until 2026, the Ugandan Treasury will have to pay $65 million to the DRC. Rwanda was not prosecuted, the court having declared itself incompetent.

To avoid 6% annual interest, Kampala began to pay its war debt. The first payment was made in September 2022. But the victims have not yet seen the color. “We are waiting for our compensation, but it is not happening to us. We have regrets because some victims die because they do not have the opportunity to seek treatment. Do they want [the authorities] to embezzle [the money]? “, lamented in April Katusi Etefa, vice-president of the Association of the victims of the wars of Kisangani, at the microphone of the local radio Okapi.

Some observers denounce the opacity surrounding the management of this money. “The former Minister of Human Rights, André Lite, is on trial for mismanagement of the 500,000 dollars that the government had made available to him for the compensation of the first victims in Kisangani. But the rest of the money is not embezzled. There are many conditions surrounding its use,” says Joseph Khasa Mabika, transitional justice adviser at the Ministry of Human Rights. The members of the board of directors of the public establishment intended for the transparent management of funds were only appointed at the beginning of May by President Félix Tshisekedi.

Tense climate between the DRC and Uganda

The second installment is expected as the climate is tense between the DRC and Uganda. However, when he came to power in 2019, Felix Tshisekedi had tried to warm relations with Yoweri Museveni. The leaders had notably agreed to develop the road network between their two countries. This initiative was followed by Operation "Shujaa" (still ongoing), a joint military action carried out from November 2021 by the Congolese and Ugandan armies against the ADF, an armed group of Ugandan origin affiliated with the Islamic State organization. (EI) in eastern DRC.

But relations between the two countries deteriorated after suspicions of collusion between Uganda and the rebels of the M23, an armed group which has gained ground in eastern DRC. “Today, relations are quite complex between Kampala and Kinshasa. Some observers believe that Uganda let the M23 do its thing. However, there was already this defense agreement between the two countries. How can a country with which you have signed this kind of agreement turn a blind eye when a rebel offensive attacks you? asks Trésor Kibangula, from the Congolese research institute Ebuteli.

In addition to financial compensation, the survivors of the "Six Day War" also hope for the conviction of the perpetrators of the crimes. “Without justice, there will be no real redress. Those responsible must be punished and the acts committed must not be repeated, ”said Dismas Kitenge, vice-president of the Lotus Group who documented the conflict.