Rwanda-backed M23 rebels have summarily executed at least 44 people and raped at least 61 women and girls since March 2013 in eastern DR Congo, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports this week, accusing Paul Kagame and his army – again – of continuing to support the Congolese rebels.
HRW quoted a former M23 police officer, who deserted in April, as saying that he participated in investigations of killings of civilians.
The former cop told HRW that before each investigation, a high-ranking M23 commander, Innocent Kayna, told him: “You will do the investigation. You will say it’s bandits in the neighborhood who killed, not M23.”
Residents and rebel deserters described recent support from within Rwanda to the M23 forces, HRW said.
This includes regular movements from Rwanda into Congo of men in Rwandan army uniforms, and the provision of ammunition, food, and other supplies from Rwanda to the M23, the New York-based rights organisation said, adding that the rebel group has been recruiting inside Rwanda.
Rwandan military officers have trained new M23 recruits, and have communicated and met with M23 leaders on several occasions, HRW said in its weekly report.
Kagame and his ministers continue to deny that Rwanda is helping the rebels, reiterating that the Congolese problem should be resolved by the Congolese themselves.
Some commentators have also accused the United States, a die-hard ally of Rwanda, of indirectly and tacitly aiding the M23 rebels through Rwanda. So far, the White House has neither denied nor confirmed these accusations, except to urge Rwanda to stop aiding the rebel group.
“Not only is Rwanda allowing its territory to be used by the abusive M23 to get recruits and equipment, but the Rwandan military is still directly supporting the M23,” HRW Africa director Daniel Bekele said.
“This support is sustaining an armed group responsible for numerous killings, rapes and other serious abuses.”
In addition to M23 abuses, HRW also said that it has documented several cases of killings and rapes by Congolese Hutu militia groups operating in and around M23-controlled territory.
HRW said that M23 military leader, Sultani Makenga, was unavailable to speak about the recent alleged abuses.
Negotiations between the rebel group and the Congolese government have stalled and the war has since resumed in full force.
More than eight million people have been killed, and close to one million women and underage girls have been raped in this mineral-rich but troubled Central African nation in the past 16 years, according to independent sources.
But despite the ongoing unstable military, political and economic situation, reports said DRC President Joseph Kabila has begun secret consultations with top officials of his ruling party in the view of amending the Constitution to enable him to get a third presidential term.
Photo: courtesy of Reuters/HRW.org (M23 rebels advancing to the frontline to fight DRC army)