Beni, a city and region in the north of North Kivu,
in the eastern part of Congo.
Since October 2014 the Beni region is the setting for a series of particularly bloody attacks,
which seems to have no end.
In over 100 attacks over a thousand innocent civilians were probably killed.
All this happens right under the noses of UN peacekeepers.
My God, we never hurt anyone.
No, no, Madam.
How is it possible that all these people are being killed,
when there are UN troops present in the field?
Elien Spillebeen & Martijn D'haene
No international or national authority maintains any list of names of the victims.
The Congolese are rarely registered at birth or death.
As a result, these victims die anonymously.
Thanks to the Beni Files I hope to prevent this.
Beni Files should give faces to the victims.
In an online monument I want to perpetuate their lives and their fates,
and show the world what has been inflicted upon them.
But I cannot do this alone.
Jean Baptiste is a local human rights activist.
He is in close contact with the local chiefs and victims.
He and his fellow volunteers report what really happens,
in the hope of bringing those responsible before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
We want those who are behind this,
first of all to be identified,
and for the judicial authorities to be able to help us to find them.
An independent investigation should be carried out
so that one day they are judged by the court.
Richard is a journalist at the local radio station, Radio Moto.
The radio is still the main, and often only source of news for the locals.
My main weapon is my dictaphone.
Then, my phone, a note book, a pen ...
in order to go in search of the information.
It's more important now people are being slaughtered here.
We are in contact with people on the field daily.
...our aim is to honour the victims of the
massacres in the region of Beni, Beni Files ...
The role of every good journalist,
of a committed journalist,
is to give a voice to them
who do not have a voice.
So to be the voice of the voiceless.
For six weeks, along with Jean Baptiste and Richard, I searched for the identities of the victims.
On paper the victims did not even appear to exist.
But in reality they were part of someone's life.
They killed my little brother.
It was my son.
My husband is dead.
We want to prove their existence,
by showing they were someone’s brother, ...
father, mother, or child.
My brother, his wife and my mother, …
all 3 are dead.
My little brothers did not return.
My wife's body was found.
They found my brother and his wife dead, all dead.
My wife and our child.
Mapiranga, Amelie and our aunt Priscilla ...
And the 2 children: Josée and Bosco.
And also Maman Fossina and Toto.
My father who set me on this earth, he is dead!
Everybody has lost somebody.
We meet childless parents,
widows and widowers,
and lost children, like Didi.
My parents went to get coal, to cook,
and should have come back in the evening.
I waited and hoped to see them alive again.
I was on the lookout, but did not see them.
I kept waiting and watching, but ...
A few days later, survivors arrived.
They said: 'There's no nobody left.'
I said: 'Nobody left?'
Then I burst into tears.
I often think of my mum.
She was good to everyone.
She never had any problems.
One day I met a soldier.
He said I could stay with him.
If bad people threaten me,
his weapon will protect me.
It's good to have a weapon, so close.
They spoke in a kind of Swahili that we do not understand here.
They spoke Kinyarwanda.
They spoke Swahili,
But among themselves they spoke a different language.
Many children accompanied them.
And when they saw other children,
they took them hostage.
Their chiefs were dressed in uniform
like our army, the FARDC.
They are thought to be the rebels of ADF-Nalu,
but we do not really know where they are from.
The descriptions of attackers differ too much to identify them as belonging to one specific group.
The population has no clear picture of the enemy.
On top of that, it seems as if certain parts of the army,
use the chaos to settle personal scores.
One night I saw three soldiers coming towards me.
They blocked my door.
I had a machete by my side.
I held the machete close,
in case I had to use it.
The Major shouted:
'Leblanc! It's me!
Do not attack me! We are on patrol! '
I said, 'A patrol does not
enter private land just like that.'
They bound my hands with a nylon rope.
He asked me where my wife was.
I said she was not at home.
He asked: 'Why not?'
'Because it's not safe.', I told him.
He wasn't satisfied by the answer.
They started to choke me with a rope.
One pulled the rope on this side,
the other in the other direction.
I had too little strength to defend myself.
Then they took the machete
And they began to cut my throat.
Thank God they also cut the rope with the machete.
Then they started to hit me on the head.
I got hit on the head three times with the machete.
I felt the Holy Spirit come to me ...
The Holy Spirit said to me, 'Run away!'
I managed to get away.
I ran behind the house.
They started shooting.
'Ta ta ta ...'
We did not know what was happening.
We immediately jumped in the brook.
But our child wasn't with us.
The soldiers told everyone
to go inside.
Then they began to kill civilians.
I heard my boy crying as
they killed his grandmother.
The soldiers said: 'Do not cry for grandma.
You will be asleep soon.'
I only walked 100 meters ...
... and ran into other security forces.
Soldiers, accompanied by police officers.
They asked me who I was.
But I was too weak to answer.
I fell on the ground.
Fortunately, there was also a friend of mine with them.
He brought me to the hospital in Oicha.
I saw the bodies.
I came out of the house with
my son's body in my arms.
Outside, I came across
Commander Mundose with his troops.
He: 'What happened?'
I: 'Here ... this is your work.'
I showed my son's body.
Our own soldiers have done
this evil to us, not the rebels.
Events like these, and wrong information
- provided on purpose or not -,
blur the bigger picture.
The population still does not know
why their villages are targeted.
In the meantime, their nightmare continues.
It was awful.
There were dead bodies everywhere,
killed like mosquitoes.
I saw dead bodies that had their hands tied.
After dinner they hung my husband
with a mosquito net
and hit him on the head with an axe.
They kept hitting us.
They even hit my child's on my back with an axe.
They cut him into pieces.
They burned the house with everyone in it
and the rebels were enjoying it.
We found his body without its head.
They'd cut off his head with a machete.
And his skull was split in two.
They slit his throat
and cut a piece from his back.
His intestines were already spread out over the ground ...
They took turns beating him,
as if it were playing cards.
They also cut off his genitals.
We do not know where they
took these body parts.
I get up?
In a period of six weeks we talked to 653 people,
who gave us 739 names of victims.
We spoke to over a hundred direct eyewitnesses
and documented 95 attacks.
But we did not reach half of the villages.
The more people hear about Beni Files,
the more witnesses come forward.
The queues are getting longer every day.
How many victims are there really?
The total number?
It might be over 1,000
There is a need for a proper report,
with the correct numbers.
Look at the attack on Vemba ...
One of the worst attacks took place on
November 20, 2014, in the farming village of Vemba.
We were working in the field
when someone came to tell us
we had to gather for a census.
I said to my sons, 'Don't go.'
But they went and joined the others.
I heard a voice coming form a walkie talkie.
Someone asked if he had found more people to bring.
That call frightened me.
I was going to get something to eat at home,
quickly, before joining the gathering.
On my way, from a distance,
I saw soldiers tying up people,
with ropes used to tie goods to a bicycle.
I saw how they hurt these people.
I was scared because of what was happening there.
I was in the field when I heard gun shots.
I did not know what was going on.
I turned back immediately to warn the others.
Someone asked me why I was in such a hurry.
I replied, “There’s war over there!”
The night fell ...
Until morning I was alone in the field,
knowing I had lost my children.
The only thing that's left for me is my poverty.
There will never be peace for us.
The next morning I got up and went to see.
I went to the place where the meeting had taken place.
I saw bodies.
Their hands were tied.
I saw corpses ...
I saw bodies with smashed heads.
Long after they died the army arrived.
The next day I heard that my brother was killed.
A lot of people got killed.
There must have been about
80 people killed at the meeting.
Plus all the people killed out in the field.
The next morning someone asked me:
'You, at your age, have you ever seen anything
I said: 'No, I've never seen anything so violent.'
The next day I wanted to take some sheets
to go and get the bodies.
On our way there, me, my brother,
my brother-in-law were stopped.
The army forbade us to enter the zone where
the massacre had taken place.
None of the victims were buried,
Because, for two months -
the soldiers did not allow anyone into the zone.
To this day we have not seen
the bodies of our loved ones.
After the quarantine there were no bodies left to be found.
The planned nature of this attack raises many questions.
The mysterious seclusion of the army,
and the disappearance of the bodies
deepen the wounds even further
Every day I see UN soldiers on patrol or on the look-out.
The level of confidence local people have
in these peacekeepers it at an all-time low.
How is it possible that all these people were killed,
when there are UN troops in the field?
They don’t dare go into the dense forest.
But even the villages along their daily route
and where we do a lot of our work,
cannot be considered as safe.
This became very clear to me
on one of our last days in the field.
We don't know.
Oicha, the village where we've been working for several days now,
is hit by an attack, just before dawn.
It was around 6:15 AM that they started shooting.
A quarter to seven?
We just drank tea.
No. I was already in class.
The program starts at 6 o'clock.
They started to shoot. Near me ...
Everybody ran away. We left that place.
They were short, dressed in military uniforms,
with a red scarf tied around their head.
I cannot believe this...
They're just killing people right here.
These presumed ADF/NALU rebels were passing through ...
and they immediately shot my brother where he stood.
We wanted to flee, but they were already there.
They shot him when he stood in the doorway.
He got a bullet in the leg.
When they noticed that he was still alive,
they stabbed him with a knife, there, between his ribs.
He is a father ...
Of five children.
We never hurt anyone.
Why are we killed like this?
My God ... We've done nothing wrong.
God, why did she have to die?
I heard shouting and gunshots.
Bullets flying around.
A lot of gunshots.
I went outside to see what was happening.
I went out to look.
I saw people running.
I went inside again.
I lay down on the ground.
Then I realised that the door was not locked.
I closed the door.
But the enemy heard that someone was inside.
I closed the door and went back to my room.
The enemy called the others and shouted:
'There is a cockroach in the house. He must die!'
It's not the first time.
This has happened several times before,
ADF/NALUs attack us here in our neighbourhoud.
At least five times.
There are still a lot of missing people.
We really cannot understand it anymore.
We are suffering. We are hungry.
We cannot go to the field anymore.
Together with Richard I go through the affected neighbourhood.
For hours the bodies were lying in the mud.
People didn’t dare to move them without permission.
But no one passes by to give it.
There's immense desperation.
My child, my child ...
It's terrible! Before, they would never
kill a pregnant woman.
They kill us for no reason.
No, no, Madam ...
Oh my God!
It quickly becomes clear to me that the army
had been warned in advance by the locals.
Yesterday I went to the field.
When I returned from the field, I ran into rebels.
The rebels took me with them.
But after half a kilometer I could escape.
Immediately after I escaped,
I went to the military base. At 5:45 PM.
There, at the military base,
I told them what I had seen.
They kept me there for two hours,
from 6 to 8 PM.
Then they said to me:
'Go home. We'll deal with it.'
So I went home.
And look ... In the morning I was surprised.
But the attack had not been stopped.
Not by the peacekeepers nor by the army.
You have to come and see this, my sister...
What is there to see?
An ADF/NALU rebel.
In the afternoon the soldiers came to show off
a so-called rebel they had supposedly manage to catch.
The young woman was thrown
at people's feet, left behind as prey.
Proudly, they took a picture and left the body behind,
only to be torn to shreds by a traumatised population.
The word "cockroaches" has haunted my mind for days.
During the Rwandan genocide all the “cockroaches” had to be exterminated too.
Today, 20 years later, the horror continues here.
What can we do?
Who can we cry with?
Who can we complain to?
Do you want to go out there and say something is wrong?
To who can we go with this?
We ask the government for security in the region,
so we can do our job in peace.
Here everyone lives in fear.
Life is very hard.
There should be more unity.
We must bring everyone together again.
That’s the only way we can ensure that
our children will grow up in peace.
We must stay united,
equal, like in a family ...
Nobody should think he or she is better
or more important than the other.
BeniFiles.com is a place to show
the world what is happening in Beni
and who the real the victims are.
After the recording of these interviews, at least 15 attacks took place,
including an attack on the town of Beni itself,
causing more than 50 deaths.
As long as the attacks continue,
Beni Files remains unfinished.
A documentary by
Elien Spillebeen & Martijn D'haene
A documentary by
Mama Kivu & Het Peloton
With the support of journalismfund.eu, the Belgian Directorate General for Development Cooperation, 11.11.11, FreePressUnlimited, Vredeseilanden and V.I.F.F.
ⓒ2017 Het Peloton