News / Africa

DRC's M23 Rebels Under Pressure

M23 volunteers at Rumangabo training camp in North Kivu province, DRC, October 8, 2012. (N. Long/VOA)
M23 volunteers at Rumangabo training camp in North Kivu province, DRC, October 8, 2012. (N. Long/VOA)
Nick Long
International pressure is mounting on the M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo and their alleged backers. Following the release of a Human Rights Watch report that accused the rebels of war crimes, the United Nations Security Council said it intends to apply targeted sanctions against the M23’s leaders and those sending them arms.

The M23 on Monday gave its small force of less than 2,000 combatants a new name -- the Congolese Revolutionary Army.

Rebel spokesman Vianney Kazerama told VOA that despite having few fighters, M23 has been able to defeat much larger government forces because it has a cause.  

He denied reports from U.N. experts that the M23 has been reinforced by the Rwandan army.

He said the group's leaders, when they were in a previous rebel movement, signed a peace agreement with the government on March 23, 2009, which the government did not respect.

That accord called for the government army to neutralize the Rwandan Hutu rebels that have been in the Congo for nearly two decades after many of them took part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

The accord also called for better governance, for a good integration of Congolese rebels into the army and political life, and for the return of some 55,000 Congolese refugees from Rwanda, many of whom have been there for more than a decade.

The Congolese refugees in Rwanda are mostly of the Tutsi ethnic group, as are most of the M23’s commanders and many of its rank and file.

The M23 is a successor movement to other Tutsi-dominated rebellions that conquered parts of the DRC in recent civil wars and aroused strong antagonism among many people.

Since the M23 launched its rebellion earlier this year it is blamed for destabilizing the whole of North Kivu province, where 320,000 people have fled their homes since May.  The group controls only a strip of territory about 120 kilometers from north to south along the borders with Uganda and Rwanda, but has shown it can defeat the regular army.

M23 is accused by Human Rights Watch of deliberately killing 15 civilians since June and of executing 33 of its own combatants for trying to desert.  

Several of the M23’s leaders are also accused of having command responsibility for massacres, forced recruitment, rape and torture between 2004 and 2008 when they were serving with previous rebel movements.
 
M23 denies the war crimes charges. A civilian spokesman for the movement, Maitre Muhire, spoke to VOA at the rebels' headquarters in Bunagana.

"I’ve read the Human Rights Watch report and what I found is it’s based just on rumors, because those allegations don’t give the area where the supposed crime has been committed, they don’t say the names of the victims, they don’t mention anything which really can be a proof that the crime has been committed," said Muhire.

Muhire said the Congolese NGO which carried out the field work for the report is biased against the movement. He said the M23 has asked for a neutral investigation supervised by the U.N.  He also invited journalists to check out the allegations themselves.

Human Rights Watch and other sources report that the rebels have threatened to kill people who speak out against the movement.

A number of civilians who approached by VOA in areas under M23’s control were reluctant to talk about the rebels’ record, while others complained about soldiers extorting food and other items. Hardly anyone, except one or two who had joined the movement, were singing its praises.   

The M23 arranged for VOA to visit a training camp and meet about 20 men who had recently joined the movement.  Nearly all of these men were in civilian dress and from their age and background it seemed likely that they had volunteered to work as civilian cadres, rather than as soldiers.

One officer who recently deserted from the Congolese army and gave his name as Douglas was an exception.

He said he had deserted because there was tribal hatred against his people in the army and other soldiers wanted to eradicate them.

A U.S.-based Congolese analyst, Jason Stearns, says incidents in which Tutsi soldiers in the Congolese army have been threatened or murdered by their comrades have helped to spark off repeated rebellions among the Tutsi community.

Stearns also reports that the M23 has recruited hundreds more combatants since its last major clashes with the army in August.  VOA was not allowed walk around the training camp to see any of these new recruits.  Human Rights watch alleges that many of them were recruited by force, many are under 18 and some are under 15.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs