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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease 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.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid