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November 21, 2012

UN Security Council Calls for Sanctions on DRC Spoilers

by Margaret Besheer

The United Nations Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution calling for sanctions against rebel leaders in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as other spoilers in the region. 

​​The M23 rebels are mainly Congolese army defectors who have become firmly entrenched in the North Kivu region. A group of about 3,000 rebels advanced toward the regional capital, Goma, in recent days. On Tuesday, they moved into the city of nearly 1 million people.

The 15-nation Security Council adopted Resolution 2076, which was drafted by France and condemns attacks by the M23 rebels and demands their immediate withdrawal from Goma. It also expresses the Council’s intention to consider additional targeted sanctions against M23 leaders and those providing external support to the armed group.

​A U.N. panel of experts monitoring sanctions on the DRC has accused neighboring Rwanda of providing material support to the group, a charge Kigali denies. Tuesday’s resolution does not mention Rwanda by name. But during the Security Council meeting, DRC envoy Seraphin Ngwej reiterated his government’s conviction that Rwanda is supporting the M23, particularly in its advance on Goma.

"The operations that led to the fall of Goma have benefited from remarkable planning and sufficient resupply, and particularly night vision equipment. This is material that neither the armed forces of the DRC nor MONUSCO have in their arsenals, unlike Rwanda. Even air defense equipment was used against combat helicopters of the armed forces of the DRC and those of MONUSCO," said Seraphin Ngwej.

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MONUSCO is the French acronym by which the 17,000-member U.N. peacekeeping force is known.

Rwanda’s representative at the meeting, Olivier Nduhungirehe, dismissed the accusations and said it is time for dialogue - but between the right parties.

“Because if we’ve learned anything from this war and the fall of Goma, [it] is that a military solution is a failure that will not work, there needs to be a dialogue - but not a dialogue between the wrong people - it needs to be between the Congolese and those fighting in the DRC.”

Human rights groups have been very critical of Rwanda’s alleged support for rebels in the mineral-rich eastern Congo. Human Rights Watch’s U.N. Director Philippe Bolopion said after the vote that the resolution falls short because it fails to name “Rwandan officials known by the U.N. to have supported M23’s atrocities.” He said if the Security Council wants to protect civilians in Goma, it needs to send a clearer message to Kigali.

The United States, which has been criticized for protecting Rwanda, urged dialogue among the parties. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Tuesday that Washington thinks "Rwanda has got to be part of the solution," and that the government should use its influence to demilitarize the situation and get the M23 to pull back.

The U.N. said Tuesday that MONUSCO remains in control of the Goma airport. The mission has about 1,500 troops in Goma. They are conducting patrols and helicopter missions as part of their effort to protect civilians.

MONUSCO said reports indicate the M23 has wounded civilians, abducted children and women, destroyed property and intimidated journalists and individuals who have attempted to resist their control.

The Congolese army has been battling rebels in the eastern DRC for the past several months, displacing scores of civilians fleeing the violence.