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McKinney Urges Both Sides to Refrain From Human Rights Abuses in Congo

Calls on Kabila to refrain from targeting particular ethic groups and protect welfare of innocent people

August 8, 1998

WASHINGTON -- A critical observer of international relations, Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) today expressed grave concern over continuing news reports of escalating violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo and accounts of arrest and detention of people based on ethnicity. "It is disheartening to learn that innocent men, women, and children are being victimized and traumatized by another war in Congo. It is even more disconcerting to hear reports that Congolese Tutsis are being rounded up, detained, tortured, and even killed," stated McKinney.

On Congolese State radio, President Laurent Kabila is reported to have said, "People must arm themselves." Congresswoman McKinney points out that this kind of rhetoric is not consistent with leadership that is trying to protect the people. McKinney has made several calls to Kabila's Presidency to inquire about the veracity of the reports of Tutsi detention. She further has complained to Congolese authorities that Congolese should not fear, but be protected by, their government. In her latest call today, she informed Congolese authorities that she has received calls from Americans concerned that their relatives are in these camps. The rebellious Congolese Tutsi fighters backed Kabila last year in his ouster of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, but they have since grown disaffected. Congolese Tutsis have close ethnic ties with the Tutsis who now govern Rwanda.

The U.S. State Department today issued a strong statement condemning the reported human rights abuses against Congolese Tutsis. When McKinney last visited Rwanda she visited a school where Tutsis had been gathered by the thousands for what was initially thought sanctuary, instead they were executed en masse. "Unfortunately this growing conflict is increasingly reminiscent of the tragedy that befell this region and these same peoples in 1994. Only this time I commend the United States for swiftly recognizing the potential for an even greater tragedy and loss of life. I urge the U. S. to take the quick action necessary to save innocent lives," commented McKinney. Although the recently-concluded seven-nation regional summit held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe failed to produce a ceasefire, Congresswoman McKinney remains hopeful that the suffering in this region will soon end.

McKinney, who recently canceled a trip to the Great Lakes region, serves on the International Relations Committee and traveled to the country formerly called Zaire at the time of the original uprising that brought Laurent Kabila to power. Since then she traveled with a US diplomatic delegation headed by former US Ambassador to the UN, Bill Richardson.

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