Human Rights Watch Accuses M23 Rebels Of Killing 30 Civilians In DR Congo

According to Human Rights Watch, the rebels killed some of the victims while trying to escape, and others were executed at point-blank range. Several civilians were also wounded during indiscriminate attacks by M23 fighters.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the March 23 (M23) rebel movement in the Democratic Republic of Congo of killing at least 30 civilians since mid-June in zones under its control.

Ida Sawyer, Director of Human Rights Watch’s Crisis and Conflict Division, gave the information during her testimony to the Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights, a coalition of the United States House of Representatives.

Sawyer explained that during one of the worst incidents in the village of Ruvumu on June 21, 2022, M23 combatants killed at least 20 civilians, two of whom were adolescents.

They accused the victims of informing the DR Congo army of their positions and hideouts. 

Some were killed while trying to escape, and others were executed at point-blank range. Several civilians were also wounded during indiscriminate attacks by M23 fighters.

She underlined the work carried out at the time by the United States under the direction of  Russ Feingold, the former Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region.

Feingold played an essential role in ending the threats posed by M23 in 2013, pressuring Rwanda to stop its support to the armed group, leading to its defeat which forced rebel leaders to escape to Rwanda and Uganda.

“But these leaders remain free, effectively protected by the justice system of Rwanda and Uganda, though many of them figure on the lists of the United States and United Nations sanctions and targeted by Congolese arrest warrants for war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Sawyer lamented.

“Two boys, aged between six and seven years, were killed by an M23 mortar shell that hit a leisure site in Biruma; M23 mortar shells killed one woman and one child in Kisiza and Katwa.”

“A mortar shell fired from the Rwandan side of the border destroyed a primary school in Katale. Some hours later, mortar shells landed in Rwandan territory, seriously wounding one woman and her ten-month-old baby and destroying farms and infrastructures.”

The DR Congo army also accused the M23 movement, FARDC, of shooting down a helicopter of the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO).

To the Congolese government, the M23 combatants are supported by the Rwandans, an accusation Rwanda denies.

Faced with the increased firepower of M23 and its allies, the Kinshasa authorities have deployed diplomatic resources hoping for a more significant involvement of the region’s countries to end the crisis.

Envoys from Kinshasa have been dispatched notably to Kampala, where they met with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who favours a political resolution of the conflict through a ceasefire followed by a dialogue between Congolese.

DR Congo has been hopefully waiting for the deployment of a regional force decided by the East African Community, but to date, no deployment calendar has been made public.

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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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