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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs