29 August 2006

Torture Murder and Cannibalism: Congo

Torture Murder and Cannibalism:
"how two UN men died in Congo"
By Declan Walsh in Bunia, D R Congo
02 June 2003

Death, when it came, must have been a relief for the two UN soldiers. Stationed at an isolated gold mine in war-racked Ituri province, they were supposed to be observing peace yet fell victim to some of the worst horrors of war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

When the bodies of Major Safwat Oran of Jordan and Captain Siddon Davis Banda of Malawi were finally recovered, their UN colleagues were aghast. Their corpses were covered in cigarette burns, shot in the head and had their sexual organs cut off.

The circumstances of the murders in Ituri, northeastern Congo, last month are still under UN investigation. But details are emerging. They will give pause for thought to the 1,400 troops, some of them British, many of them French, due to deploy this week to rescue the blighted UN mission.

On 6 May a vicious battle erupted in Bunia, 40 miles to the south, the prized town at the heart of Ituri's ethnic cauldron. Militiamen from the Hema and Lendu tribes drew blood with guns, knives, spears and poisoned arrows. Within a week, more than 430 people would die.

A week later Mongbwalu, a once thriving but now desolate gold-mining centre, was still calm. But the townspeople, also fearing an attack, began to flee. So did the two UN military observers, according to a local aid worker who helped recover their bodies. Major Oran and Capt Davis Banda sent a radio message to their superiors in Kisangani, 400 miles to the west across a swathe of impenetrable bush. Later in the day, they were carrying their bags from their house - once home to the Belgian mine boss - when Lendu fighters tackled them. Accusing them of collaborating with the Hema, they carried them off. The two soldiers were never again seen alive.

The following Sunday night a helicopter carrying their remains flew into Bunia airport using car headlights as a guide. A Belgian priest, Father Joe Deneckere, was there. "The smell was truly awful. It remained with me for days afterwards," he said yesterday.

King Abdullah II of Jordan sent a special plane to Kinshasa to recover Major Oran's body; Capt Davis Banda was returned to Malawi aboard a UN flight. A horrified UN condemned the "savage" killings of its observers, whose severed sexual organs - according to some reports the hearts and livers were also missing - raised the possibility of cannibalism.

During the battle for Bunia, some victims' remains were badly mutilated; some fighters wore penises and kidneys around their necks as magic amulets. Last December, during fighting for control of Mambasa, there were 12 confirmed cases of cannibalism, UN investigators said.

Other Sources:

U.N. Says It Has Evidence Of Cannibalism, Identifies Staff's Killers

Monday, June 02, 2003

The United Nations has uncovered evidence of cannibalism in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, U.N. spokesman Madnodje Mounoubai told Associated Press yesterday. Mounoubai said the evidence included "photographs and information" collected by investigators that would be made public "in due time."

Mounoubai also said U.N. investigators had identified the killers of two unarmed military observers whose bodies were discovered May 18. Other U.N. officials cited by AP said Major Sarwat Oran of Jordan and Captain Siddon Davis Banda of Malawi were tortured by having their genitals cut off before being shot in the head (Rodrique Ngowi, AP/London Guardian, June 2).

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