29 August 2006

Cannibalism in Congo

The remains of two brutally murdered military observers, Major Safwat al Oran, 37, (Jordan) and Captain Siddon Davis Banda, 29, (Malawi), serving with the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) are recovered from Mongwalu, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

But in May, two United Nations military observers stationed in northeastern Congo at an outpost near Bunia, a town not far from Beni, were killed by a local tribal militia. The peacekeepers' bodies were split open and their hearts, livers and testicles taken -- common signs of cannibalism. Battles for control of Bunia last spring, waged between the Lendu tribe and their rivals, the Hema, left more signs. To follow the U.N.'s news bulletins about Congo is to come across lines like this: ''Mayi-Mayi militiamen accused of cannibalism were disarmed last weekend in the Haut Lomani District'' in the country's southeast. And in a recently released report, U.N. investigators documented 12 incidents of cannibalism during the failed rebel advance on Beni -- by an army from yet another region of the country -- that overtook Amuzati's family late last fall.

More in-deph information from the above story

Sunday August 17, 2003
The Observer

They knew it could happen. The two middle-ranking officers, observers with the United Nations mission in Congo, had already warned their headquarters. They called again saying: 'Get us out of here - we're going to get killed.'

Drunken, red-eyed youths and heavily armed children high on marijuana fingered their weapons, flashed their knives. They hungrily peered in on the two unarmed volunteers in a remote outpost of the $2 million-a-day mission to Congo.

Major Safwat al Oran, 37, from Jordan, and Captain Siddon Davis Banda, 29, from Malawi, waited patiently. For six days they strained their hearing and searched the skies for a UN helicopter. It was only a 35-minute ride from its heavily guarded base. They locked themselves in their little compound knowing there was no way they could drive to safety in Bunia about 30 miles away, through the militia.

Their pleas for rescue increased in urgency. They began to fear the incredible - that the UN would not get to them in time. The Lendu militia, like their enemies the Hema, have a well-earned reputation for cannibalism. They began to inch closer.

The helicopter did eventually turn up. It picked up the major and the young captain - but by then they were rotting in a ditch.

Someone had burnt them with cigarettes, and cut out their brains, hearts, livers and testicles. 'Our assumption is that at least parts of these men were indeed eaten,' said a senior UN source involved in the internal inquiry into why the unarmed officers were left to die.

No inquiry has been conducted into why the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country the size of Western Europe, has been abandoned like those two UN officers.

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