In its latest report released on 25 June 2014, the United Nations Group of Experts revealed new information on the death of Paul Sadala, former leader of Mai-Mai Morgan.
Following earlier negotiations about his surrender, Morgan allegedly agreed to meet the army in person in Badengaido with some 40 of his men to discuss his terms of surrender (see letter below). One of Sadala’s desires was to become General of the Congolese army. Together with some of his men, he then traveled east-bound to Molokay, where he met General Fall. According to Fall’s account, after an initial conversation, Morgan refused to travel onward and intended to return to the bush with his men, six of whom were reportedly armed. Gen. Fall then ordered his men to shoot Morgan once in each leg. During the ensuing shootout, a number of soldiers and rebels were either killed or injured. The army proceeded to drive Morgan to the MONUSCO base at Komanda, where they arrived three and a half hours later. All the while, Morgan reportedly “received minimal first aid” and was “barely alive on arrival,” dying shortly thereafter. For a detailed reconstruction of the events, see photos below.
In conclusion, the Group “believes that a flawed plan to extract Morgan from the bush resulted in a disproportionate use of force during Morgan’s arrest, ill-treatment during his transfer and negligence in treating his wounds.” This conclusion is “based on analysis by the Group of photographic and video evidence, in addition to interviews with FARDC and MONUSCO officials.”
While I do not call into question the Group’s conclusion, I would like to stress that only FARDC elements actually provided a first-hand account of the shootout (no MONUSCO staff was present during the pivotal moment). Given the army’s involvement, their take on the events should be treated with a certain measure of skepticism. For instance, it still remains unclear why Morgan was “bleeding profusely” from a wound on his left hip, a fact that General Fall could not explain nor could the Group identify its cause. In addition, it would be helpful to know what the Group thinks of the finding that Morgan had been tortured by a sharp object, as reported by Radio Okapi on 20 May. I am also curious to know which entity provided the photographic and video evidence.
In line with my earlier reporting below, I share the Group’s assessment that the death discourages elements from Morgan and other groups to come out, prevents the release of kidnapped women and children, and might harm the ongoing disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process in Ituri. The Group goes as far as arguing that it might have implications for the “long-term security and stability in the Ituri Mambasa territory.”
All the while, it remains to be seen what the consequences for the “flawed plan, “ill-treatment” and “negligence” are going to be.
Reconstruction of events by the UN Group of Experts:
Pic 1: Morgan (black shirt and dark blue jeans) meets Gen. Fall (standing on the right, wearing FARDC military uniform, with red insignia on the shoulder) at Molokay.
Pic 2: An unarmed Morgan and Gen. Fall get into Gen. Fall’s car for private discussion, surrounded by FARDC soldiers.
Pic 3: Morgan in Mambasa, approximately 2 hours post shooting. Morgan is seated with other wounded persons in the back of a pickup-truck, wearing black shirt and underpants.
Pic 4: Crowd gathers in front of the Mambasa health facility (Centre de depistage SIDA) where some wounded are dropped off. Morgan is not treated here and continues the journey at the back of the truck.
Pic 5: 14h54: Gen. Fall at the entrance of MONUSCO camp in Komanda.
Pic 6: 15h05: Picture taken ten minutes post arrival in Komanda. Morgan is barely alive and appears to have moved his arms.
Pic 7: 15h05: MONUSCO provides medical assistance in Komanda.
Pic 8: 16h01: FARDC and MONUSCO soldiers transport Morgan transported on a stretcher. A MONUSCO soldier holds a drip, and bandages are apparent on Morgan’s leg and hip.
Pic 9: 16h01: The MONUSCO helicopter is visible, which brought an Air Medical Evacuation Team (AMET) to Komanda.
Pic 10: 16h07: Morgan on the ground near the helicopter.
Pic 11: A medical officer from the AMET tries to resuscitate Morgan
Pic 12: Resuscitation attempt continues.
Pic 13: The AMET continues resuscitation attempt.
Pic 14: 16h48: Morgan is in the helicopter.
Letter to President Kabila from Morgan
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Headquarters General Mumbiri
Mai Mai Lumumba Simba
Declaration of General Morgan to His Excellency Rais Joseph Kabila Kabange
I heard your testimony about the blood of us Congolese which is spilled every day. I was happy when I learned that small rebel groups like ours would no longer be arrested or killed. Head of State, you are our father and we come at your feet to listen to your voice Ah! Why do we kill each other, it gave me the desire to leave (the forest) and find out the truth. I come, knowing it is false — but if it was true J. Pierre Bemba would be freed already, Toma Lubanga and all the others are still there. My request to my father is this one:
1) Confirm my grade of general
2) Give us military uniforms
3) Supply us with all sorts of weapons
And to show that I am your son and that I am ready, send me everywhere your enemy is.
After having sent you my request…
New developments in the death of Paul Sadala, former leader of Mai Mai Morgan: He was tortured
Following the launch of an investigation by the Congolese military into the suspicious death of rebel leader Paul Sadala on 14 April 2014, it was reported on 20 May that FARDC soldiers had tortured Sadala prior to his death. While the findings are interesting and revealing, it begs a lot of questions. In the following, I want to outline the many questions that remain unanswered. While I don’t have many of the answers myself yet, I hope it shows the continuous controversy and keeps the debate ongoing.
THE ACT OF TORTURE
Why was he tortured? Was torture used to force him to reveal information? If so, what information? I do not want to conspire but Sadala did have vital intelligence on the FARDC: According to findings of the UN Group of Experts, Mai Mai Morgan enjoyed “close relationships” with senior leaders in the FARDC ninth military region, including Maj. Gen. Jean Claude Kifwa, who provides logistical support, arms and ammunition.
If he simply had to be silenced, why not kill him without torturing him first? Alternatively, was the torture simply used to punish and humiliate him?
Who tortured him? Who gave the orders versus who committed the direct acts? Major Enock Kinzambi, commander of the FARDC battalion in Mambasa, Orientale Province, was the first to be arrested on 29 April. Radio France International reported he was arrested because he had lied that Morgan had been disarmed. But did he also torture him?
Was it an act of an individual army element or an act commissioned by a higher authority?
What was the role of the high command? And where were they, especially General Fall Sikabwe to whom Sadala reportedly surrendered to? Did Sikabwe and the high command fail to prevent the torture?
SADALA’S EVENTUAL DEATH AND IMMEDIATE AFTERMATH
What was the cause of his death? Did Sadala die of the consequences of torture? (He reportedly had “profound wounds” (incl. at his tibia) inflicted by a sharp object.) Or did he die in the later shootout as alleged by the army? If the shootout really happened, what started it?
Why did the army agree to surrender Sadala’s tortured body to MONUSCO? Did they resist giving up the body? Were they afraid that MONUSCO would find out about the torture? Or, on the contrary, did they want MONUSCO to find out? If that’s the case, are there two different sides, one that tortured and the other one that wanted to help reveal it? Or did the elements that surrendered Sadala’s body not know about it?
Why did MONUSCO take him when he was already dead upon arrival? For the purpose of an investigation? To recap, the first official account of the government falsely reported that Morgan was bleeding to death when he was being flown out by a helicopter of MONUSCO. The UN, however, denied this, clarifying that he had already been dead prior to arrival. “We only received the remains of Paul Sadala from the DRC army. He was already dead”, Charles Antoine Bambara, the UN mission’s public information officer, told reporters.
Did any members of Sadala’s family or kin come forward to claim the body for burial?
When MONUSCO transported his corpse did they inspect his body and find anything?
Did MONUSCO’s team of investigators deployed later see the body and notice the signs of torture? If so, did they inspect it before the army inspector saw the dead body?
How long did MONUSCO hold on to the corpse before returning it to the army? What did they do with it in the meantime?
What’s the status of MONUSCO’s investigation? What is their stated objective in carrying out the investigation?
At times, military prosecutors vulnerable to political and outside interference were prevented from implicating elements of the army in such terrible a crime. They had to cover it up. So, what explains the prosecutor Gen. Major Mukuntu Kiala’s conduct in this case? I can think of several possibilities, including:
- the act was an uncoordinated act by an individual who does not enjoy protection from higher authorities/elites.
- the military prosecutor had free reign to conduct his investigation and present his findings.
- MONUSCO knew about it after transporting him and pressured the Congolese army behind closed doors to reveal the truth. This scenario strikes me as the most convincing.
By whom and where was he buried? I imagine he was buried for reasons of contamination.
Who called for the exhumation and later autopsy? Who exhumed the body and who conducted the autopsy?
Did the prosecutor Gen. Major Mukuntu Kiala gather any evidence other than the autopsy results, such as witness testimonies?
Have there been any new findings?
What are going to be the consequences of the findings we now know about? Have there been any new arrest warrants or temporary suspensions? I have not heard of any yet.
What has happened to the 42 other elements that have been captured? Where are they? Are they dead?
Is Sadala’s death going to deter other rebel leaders from surrendering? What incentives and guarantees must be provided to encourage other rebel elements to surrender? What will be the plan to communicate the results of the investigations to ensure that combatants are sent a message that any foul play by the army was an isolated and intolerable incident?
Where is the rest of the group and what are they doing?
- On 11 June, MONUSCO reported that FARDC continues to fight elements of the group active in the territory of Mambasa. On 3 June, the army allegedly arrested two Simba elements in Bafwakoa, located 39 km east of Nia-Nia. They were transferred to Kisangani. The elements carried two AK-47s.
- On 21 May, MONUSCO said 20 elements supposedly belonging to Morgan attacked a village 33 kilometers east of Nia-Nia, pillaging five shops, stealing one motorbike, and kidnapping two men and two women. The Congolese army reportedly deployed its men to the region, wounding one.
- Two days prior to the attack, on 19 May, MONUSCO deployed one operational post in Nia-Nia, charged to protect MONUSCO, prevent attacks at civilians and conduct “robust patrols.”
- On 14 May, MONUSCO revealed that elements of Sadala had attacked on 8 May positions of the Congolese army in the gold site of Mutshatsha, 300 kilometers west of Bunia. Two rebels and one soldier reportedly died. The confrontations later led to the displacement of people towards Bandegaido et Nyanya.
- Two days prior, on 12 May, a group of Morgan elements, on behalf of Manu, attacked the village of Bakutambili, located 33 kilomters east of Nia-Nia, pillaging shops and markets. They also reportedly closed all schools and forcibly sent the pupils home. The rebels later withdrew in the face of the arrival of the army.
- On 9 May, Morgan rebels allegedly attacked the army in Orientale Province (Muchacha, Bandegaido, Mambasa). They are said to have killed one soldier, wounding three others.
Does the group actually still exist as such or are the activities described above now the results of splinter groups that seek survival?
Did anyone – and if so who – replace Paul Sadala? On 7 May, MONUSCO alleged that Sadala’s young brother Mr. Mangaribi was officially appointed as General and replacement of Sadala. The ceremony is said to have taken place in the village of Bandumbisa, located 47 km off Nia-Nia.
What happened to Sadala’s notable colleagues lieutenant Manu and/or Jean Pierre aka JP or Docteur?
What’s the status of the war crimes trial against 24 Mai Mai Morgan elements that started on 1 March?
As stated earlier, unfortunately, I don’t have the answers to many of these questions yet. We might never find them. But I believe identifying outstanding questions is a first and necessary step.
New developments in the death of Paul Sadala (update as of 2 May 2014):
Following the launch of an investigation into Morgan’s death by the Congolese military, authorities reportedly arrested FARDC Major Enock Kinzambi, commander of the FARDC battalion in Mambasa, Orientale Province, on 29 April. He’s the first suspect in custody. (MONUSCO has deployed its own investigate team. Findings are forthcoming). Radio France International reports he was arrested because he had lied that Morgan had been disarmed.
Earlier on 25 April, France 24 and Sonia Rolley of RFI received an exclusive video that shows Sadala in FARDC custody. The video underscores the opacity of Sadala’s death. Sonia continues to report frequently on the issue so make sure to add her to your Twitter feed (@soniarolley). Also follow Christophe Rigaud (@afrikarabia), who published an interesting blog post on Sadala on 24 April.
Also on 24 April, MONUSCO reports that elements supposedly belonging to Mai Mai Morgan raped six women, wounded ten men with gun shots, and stole several goods in an attack on the mining site of Kakolo, 90 km southwest of Mambasa-centre (map). Several teenagers have been allegedly kidnapped to transport the loot. As a response to this, MONUSCO says it has established on operational post in Epulu, 70 km west of Mambasa as part of its operation Eagle Claw meant to secure the Epulu-Molokai-Badengaido axis (map). A day prior, on 23 April, four Morgan rebels supposedly surrendered to the army in Cantine, 54 km southwest of Beni, MONUSCO says.
P.s.: According to the latest information, Sadala surrendered to General Fall Sikabwe.
Situation as of 23 April 2014:
Paul Sadala aka Morgan was killed on 14 April 2014 after he surrendered with 42 of his men to the army two days prior in the locality of Bandegaido, Mambasa territory, Orientale province (map). It is still unclear why Sadala surrendered in the first place. One possibility might be that he wanted to benefit from a new disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program recently put in place.
According to the account of the government (here and here), Morgan and his men were transferred from Molokaï village to Bunia town, the capital of Ituri district, Orientale Province. “When we reached the town of Mambasa which is about 100 km south of Bunia, Morgan refused to continue his way to Bunia unless he was given the rank of general. During the standoff, he was injured on his legs”, army chief Gen Felix Sikabwe said. The government reports that four of his men (Reuters reported two) and two soldiers were also killed.
The first official account of the government falsely reported that Morgan was bleeding to death when he was being flown out by a helicopter of the peacekeeping mission MONUSCO. The UN, however, denied this, clarifying that he had already been dead prior to their arrival. “We only received the remains of Paul Sadala from the DRC army. He was already dead”, Charles Antoine Bambara, the UN mission’s public information officer, told reporters.
The accounts of Sadala’s death are competing, sparking some to question it altogether. Two days after his death, the provincial deputy and member of the presidential majority Joseph Ndiya accused the Congolese army assassinated Sadala in order to silence him (possibly for his reported involvement with elements of the army – see below). The spokesperson of the Congolese government, however, expressed his regret that Morgan could no longer be brought to justice for charges issued on November 2012 for war crimes and crimes of sexual violence. Since 1 March, 24 of his men stand trial for war crimes.
MONUSCO announced that it would launch its own investigations into the killing and probe into the whereabouts of the remaining 42 men. As of 14 April, MONUSCO did not know whether they were still alive. The mission is well-advised to conduct a rigorous assessment and report on its findings in due time. As a UN official told Reuters: “There is a worry that other warlords will not come forward to surrender because it is unclear what happened to Morgan.” The leader of the civil society of Ituri district echoed this sentiment, arguing that the killing complicates the surrender of Morgan’s fellow members that are still at large. As if to underscore his remarks, remaining elements of Mai Mai Morgan reportedly staged two new attacks on 15 and 16 April, causing women and children to flee. Days later, on 18 April, Mai Mai Morgan rebels attacked two villages situated close to Salate in Mambasa territory, MONUSCO said. They reportedly pillaged gold, raped four women and kidnapped a number of men.
Who’s Mai Mai Morgan?
A native of the Bombo community, Sadala has been the overall commander of the group. Other leaders include his lieutenant Manu and Jean Pierre aka JP or Docteur. In August 2013, together with my colleague Fidel Bafilemba I estimated that Morgan had around 250 men at his disposal, mostly from the ethnic groups Nande, Ndaka, Bakumu, Bapiri, and some FARDC deserters. (Note that the UN Group of Experts in mid-July 2013 only spoke of “several dozen” men.)
The group has enjoyed friendly relationships with Mai Mai Simba and the Union for the Rehabilitation of Democracy in Congo, or URDC (for more information on the latter two, see here). According to findings of the UN Group of Experts, Mai Mai Morgan enjoys “close relationships” with senior leaders in the FARDC ninth military region, including Maj. Gen. Jean Claude Kifwa, who provides logistical support, arms and ammunition. The group is operating in Mambasa and Bafwasende districts in Orientale Province (see mapping by Christoph Vogel).
While Morgan has no official objective, the group has been heavily involved in the illicit exploitation of natural resources. In its final report for 2013, the UN Group of Experts reported that during 2013 Morgan shifted his focus away from poaching elephants in the Okapi Fauna Reserve in Haut Uélé and Ituri districts of Orientale Province to attacking gold mines.
Reported gross human rights violations committed by Mai Mai Morgan include pillage, kidnapping, rape, including sexual slavery, and cannibalism. In mid-2013, for example, the UN Group of Experts reported that from 1 to 5 November 2012, the group raped or sexually mutilated more than 150 women during a series of attacks on villages in a gold-mining area south of Mambasa.
The death of Morgan and capture of 42 men is a serious – possibly fatal – blow to the group. It remains to be seen whether his successors Manu and Jean Pierre can revive the group. Whatever the future will bring for Mai Mai Morgan, the situation in southern Orientale Province will remain volatile for the nearby future, however. Other rebel groups such as ADF and FRPI – albeit weakened in light of recent FARDC operations- continue their activities. Meanwhile, the near absence of any effective policing in Ituri “is fuelling mob violence which has seen about 100 people killed and 1,500 houses torched in the past year, according to local civil society groups,” IRIN News reports.
- The most detailed and authoritative accounts of Mai Mai Morgan can be found in the bi-annual reports of the UN Group of Experts, including S/2014/42 (23 January 2014, para. 64-67); S/2013/433 (19 July 2013, para. 72-78); and S/2012/843 (15 November 2012, paras. 128-132).
- MONUSCO provides a neat overview of commentary by Congolese media a day after Morgan’s death.
- Enough Project’s August 2013 overview (p.10) of Mai Mai Morgan.
- On 23 January 2013, IRIN News reported on the activities of Mai Mai Morgan.
P.s.: The picture is from the UN Group of Experts S/2013/433 (19 July 2013; annex 46, p.116).