Date: Thu, 5 Dec 96 12:29:15 CST
From: Ray Mitchell <RMITCHEL%AI-UK@amnesty.org.uk>
Subject: AI: Rwanda/Zaire bulletin
'Disappearances' / Fear for safety
Amnesty International Urgent Action Bulletin, AI Index: AFR 02/33/96, 5 December 1996
Phocas Nikwigize, former bishop of Ruhengeri in northwestern Rwanda, has 'disappeared' in Goma, in eastern Zaire. He has not been seen since 30 November 1996. Michel Twagirayesu, former head of the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda, 'disappeared' in eastern Zaire towards the end of October 1996. The whereabouts of his wife and son are also unknown.
Phocas Nikwigize had fled Rwanda in 1994 and had been a refugee in Zaire since then. On 30 November 1996, he was making his way from the bishopric of Goma towards the border with Rwanda when he was stopped by a group of armed men who reportedly took his vehicle and ordered a foreign priest who was accompanying him to return to Zaire. They then reportedly led Phocas Nikwigize away to an unknown destination. There has been no further news of him since that date, from either side of the Zaire-Rwanda border. Amnesty International believes that Phocas Nikwigize is at risk of ill-treatment and/or extrajudicial execution.
Large parts of eastern Zaire, including the town of Goma, are now under the control of the Tutsi-led armed group, the Alliance des forces democratiques pour la liberation du Congo-Zaire (AFDL), Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (see below). It is assumed that the armed men who took Phocas Nikwigize away were members of the AFDL or of groups associated with them.
Michel Twagirayesu had been in exile near Bukavu, in eastern Zaire, since 1994. There are reports that he may have been among several people allegedly killed by AFDL members in Bukavu at the end of October 1996. Other reports allege that he was arrested and taken across the border into Rwanda where he may be detained. His wife and son are also reported to have "disappeared".
The AFDL has been responsible for deliberate and arbitrary killings of hundreds of unarmed civilians, including many Rwandese refugees, since fighting broke out between the AFDL and the Zairian security forces in eastern Zaire in October 1996. Members of the Zairian security forces have also carried out many extrajudicial executions of unarmed civilians, particularly of people of Rwandese origin, from both the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. There have also been reports of killings and other human rights abuses in eastern Zaire by members of the former Rwandese army and interahamwe militia responsible for the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.
Several religious figures have been among those deliberately and arbitrarily killed in eastern Zaire in October and November. For example Christophe Munzihirwa, Archbishop of Bukavu, was killed on 28 October 1996, allegedly by members of the AFDL or by soldiers of the Rwandese Patriotic Army (RPA) who may have been assisting them unofficially. Despite denials by the Rwandese Government that the RPA is involved in the fighting and human rights violations in eastern Zaire, there have been persistent reports of the presence of RPA soldiers in the area. It appears that Christophe Munzihirwa may have been targeted because of his public criticism of the AFDL and its alleged support from the Rwandese Government.
Another Zairian priest, Jean-Claude Buhendwa, from Burhale parish, was among those killed by AFDL members on or around 18 November 1996 at Chimanga camp in South Kivu. He was shot dead after he protested at the killing of unarmed Rwandese and Burundi refugees and displaced Zairians.