DR Congo – Call For Sanctions Against Killers Of Civilians

A mass killing of scores of civilians should been seen as a war crime and the perpetrators sanctioned, a growing consensus of international voices say.

International sanctions should be placed on the perpetrators of a massacre in a village in North Kivu, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a human rights group says.

Scores of people were killed in the village of Kisheshe, in the Bwito chiefdom of Rutshuru territory, around 100 kms from Goma the chief town of North Kivu on November 29. The attack could constitute a war crime, representatives of the United States in the DR Congo said. 

The killings have called into question a ceasefire ordered on the region by the leaders of regional countries. The ceasefire was ordered so that talks could be conducted and a solution found to a resurgent conflict in eastern DR Congo. 

HRW says it has credible information on the murders and has called for the immediate deployment of UN peacekeepers in Kisheshe and its environs to secure and protect the survivors of the massacres.

“The situation remains extremely volatile, the DR Congo government and the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DR Congo (MONUSCO) must make the protection of civilians a priority against new reprisal attacks”, HRW said in a statement, adding that an independent investigation must be carried out and sanctions meted on the authors of the massacres.

The human rights organisation says according to information at its disposal, rebels from the March 23 movement captured the locality of Kisheshe on November 29, 2022 following fighting with local armed groups and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (DFLR).

On its part, MONUSCO says it is “horrified by the information concerning abuse of human rights attributed to the M23 in the village of Kisheshe, about 34 kilometres to the southwest of Rwindi”.

“We condemn these despicable acts and call on all the competent authorities to investigate without delay and to bring the authors to justice. These allegations, if confirmed, can constitute crimes in the eyes of international humanitarian law”, MONUSCO declared in a statement yesterday, adding that the UN mission remains “attached to the immediate cessation of violence against civilians”.

The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) has been called upon to take action concerning the massacre.

“MONUSCO reiterates the call by the UN Secretary General to all armed Congolese and foreign groups to immediately lay down their arms and enter into the respective demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration/repatriation processes, as the case may be”, the UN statement declared.

Some world powers had earlier expressed concern and indignation about the said massacre including the British Minister of State for Development, Andrew Mitchell, who condemned “reports of an appalling massacre in Kisheshe in DR Congo” adding that “the United Kingdom is by the side of the innocent victims and fully condemns violence”.

“We call for a cessation of hostilities, a quick inquiry and that the authors be brought before the law for war crimes”, the British official said.

On his part, the Chargee d’Affaires at the American Embassy in Kinshasa, Stephanie Miley had declared that the massacre of civilians in Kisheshe could constitute a war crime.

Nobel Peace laureate, Dr. Denis Mukwege also declared that he was “horrified by concordant sources talking of a mass massacre, missing persons and forced recruitment of children”.

Dr. Mukwege said “These crimes must be followed by rapid sanctions against the occupation forces of M23/Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) and charges by national and international justice”.

Several sources report dozens of summary executions recorded Tuesday November 29 in Kisheshe. The FARDC accuses the M23, which controls the zone, of having killed fifty civilians while other sources talk of a higher death toll of over one hundred civilians killed.

Bertrand Bisimwa, president of the political wing of the M23, on his part rather talks of “a supposed massacre which is but a spiritual view of those who want to create diversion”.

Serious fighting continued in the chiefdom of Bwito within a context of the violation of the ceasefire decreed by the Luanda mini-summit. Gunfire and detonations were heard in Lushebere, a locality situated between Kirima and Kisheshe.

Several sources report that the army was attacked by M23 combatants who have for several days now been occupying some localities in the zone.

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Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian investigative journalist and traditional ruler. He writes for international media and has participated in several transnational investigations. Etahoben won the first-ever Cameroon Investigative Journalist Award in 1992. He serves as a member of a number of international investigative journalism professional bodies including the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). He is HumAngle's Francophone and Central Africa editor.

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