I was visiting an ex-CNDP senior officer this evening when he received news that four Tutsi ex-CNDP soldiers, include a major and a captain, had been tortured and summarily executed in Burhinyi, South Kivu. A group of friends had already gathered in his house and were bemoaning the deaths, exchanging stories they had already received, via text message and phone calls, of how they had been tortured before they were executed. Some relatives of the victims who were there said they hadn’t even been able to get the bodies.
The details are still murky, and we should be careful to reserve judgment. The South Kivu command has reportedly confirmed that four soldiers were killed yesterday. The commander of the regiment that arrested them says that they were shot when they tried to escape, after they had been arrested for desertion; the news the ex-CNDP officer was receiving obviously contradicted this – he said they had been arrested in civilian clothes, with signed authorizations for leave, then tortured, killed and thrown in a mass grave.
The officer I was visiting called a fellow ex-CNDP colonel, telling him in Kinyarwanda that he too would defect if the Congolese army didn’t react and bring these “beasts” to justice. “Should we just wait here until they kill all of us?” He asked. Others in the room were already saying that the bodyguards of another ex-CNDP officer who had defected were already being targeted – “they are next.” The ex-CNDP colonel tried to convince him that this was exactly how the M23 wanted him to react, but my host, who had spent much of the evening criticizing Bosco Ntaganda, didn’t buy it. He said he would wait to see the government’s reaction, but didn’t have much hope.
Throughout the CNDP history, it has been incidents like this that snowball into outright violence.