The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) should arrest M23 rebel leaders responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious human rights abuses and bring them to justice in fair and credible trials, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in its weekly dispatch.
The call comes at a crucial time when the DRC government is locked in serious negotiations with the Rwanda and Uganda-backed rebel group in Kampala over a ‘peace agreement’ that will officially end the war in the mineral-rich east of the country.
But the negotiations have been temporarily suspended over a series of ‘irreconcilable differences’ between the two parties.
The war in the Kivus regions has killed more than eight million people, injured one million and has seen more than five million women and young girls raped or gang-raped over a period of 13 years, according to independent statistics.
This is a sad and shocking tally that had irked the New York-based rights organisation, which reprimands both the M23 rebels and the ill-disciplined and underpaid Congolese army for committing serious human rights abuses in this part of the world.
The “After the M23 – Congo’s Next Challenges” weekly dispatch, published on Friday and penned by Ida Sawyer, also urges the government of Joseph Kabila to issue explicit orders to all members of the security forces not to carry out revenge attacks or other abuses against members of the Tutsi ethnic group or suspected M23 collaborators.
Those implicated in such acts should be promptly brought to justice, HRW said.
HRW also called on the United Nations mission in DRC, known as MONUSCO, to work together with the DRC government to address the threat posed by other abusive armed groups, including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the Nduma Defence of Congo (NDC) led by Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka, the Raia Mutomboki, and a number of Congolese Hutu militia groups often referred to as Nyatura.
“As part of these efforts, urgently implement a new disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme that provides alternative employment opportunities for ex-combatants, and ensure that rebel leaders responsible for serious human rights abuses are arrested and brought to justice,” HRW said.
However, many analysts said that it is highly unlikely that the government of Kabila will dare arrest any M23 rebel leader.
Some say making such a move will further generate obstacles in the Kampala negotiations, which many observers have described as a ‘masquerade’ orchestrated by the US and its die-hard allies Rwanda and Uganda to legitimise the rebel group – a platform they used to destabilise and loot the mineral-rich country.
The M23 rebel group, which has reportedly got military, intelligence and financial help from some well-placed sources within the Congo government, has been officially ‘defeated’ by the Congolese army with the help of the UN armed brigade.
The rebel group said last week on Twitter that ‘they know the truth’.
The truth might never come out about the real reasons of this savage war.
Photo: M23 rebels in their training camp inside Congo. Credit: The Guardian, UK