- M23 rebels continue to kill and rape Congolese people with impunity
- The British government has remained silent over the involvement of Rwanda in the DRC conflict in a bid to maintain its refugee migration deal with Kigali.
- Rwanda has been supporting M23 violence with cross-border shipments of artillery, weapons, and ammunition.
The British government has remained silent over the involvement of Rwanda in the DRC conflict in a bid to maintain its refugee migration deal with Kigali. According to a recent Amnesty International investigation, the M23 rebels, a group the United Nations claims is being armed and supported by Kigali, are committing serious war crimes in the DRC.
The report describes how the M23 rebels have used sexual violence as a method of punishment and denigration against their alleged enemies. The United States and the European Union have been vocal, calling out Kagame and Rwanda to stop supporting M23. However, Kagame has rubbished the claims and denied any involvement in the DRC.
As one of the leading countries that hold human rights as sacrosanct, political commentators have accused the United Kingdom of being hypocritical for its failure to call out Rwanda. This silence by the UK is an attempt to keep the migrant deal on track between the countries. Last week, the British prime minister called Kagame to discuss the UK-Rwanda migration collaboration and solve humanitarian issues.
The alarming rise of violence in the DRC is a cause for concern in central Africa. According to interviews conducted by Amnesty researchers with 23 rape survivors and 12 witnesses, the M23 rebels have embarked on a horrifying campaign of sexual violence. The rebels are doing house-to-house raids, killing every adult male they discover and raping scores of women, some of whom are subjected to gang rape.
The human rights organization investigated patterns of civilian deaths and sexual assault in the region by reviewing medical records, government records, and interviewing government officials, UN representatives, and well-known humanitarian organizations.
Rape and sexual violence are commonplace in the M23’s operations, which aim to punish, humiliate, and destroy social and familial structures in the North Kivu province towns of Bambo, Bugina, and Kishishe. The M23 is attempting to take control of these towns, as it did in 2012, when Gen. James Kabarebe, a former Rwandan defense minister, was named as its leader.
One of the survivors stated, “I counted 80 men who had been killed by M23 forces.” “Before I could count them all, I passed out.” Another lady who escaped an M23 attack recounted, “They smashed through the gate of the property and picked up all the guys, seven in total, who they killed. Six women and I were then raped by five troops.”
Another woman claimed that three M23 troops sexually assaulted her near a church where she and her family had taken shelter following armed group battles. She stated that “they targeted the men, including my husband and two boys, and shot them to death.” Then three M23 troops dragged me behind the chapel and started raping me, one at a time. I believed I wouldn’t make it. Several women who rebelled were slain or made to witness the deaths of their loved ones.
Aerial footage, as well as photographic and video evidence, was presented in a recent 235-page UN report on the DRC to demonstrate how Rwanda has been supporting M23 violence with cross-border shipments of artillery, weapons, and ammunition.
According to Amnesty International, these attacks may be crimes against humanity, and they are only a small portion of the carnage the M23 rebels are committing in the DRC. More than 800,000 Congolese have been forced from their homes as a result of the violence, according to the UNHCR, the refugee agency of the United Nations.
The European Commission has stated that over 240,000 people are living outside of Goma in improvised housing without access to water or sanitation, prompting the EU to establish a “humanitarian air bridge” to transport emergency supplies like food and medicine.
Twelve of the 23 rape survivors who were questioned for the Amnesty report said that their husbands or sons had been brutally murdered. This is made worse by the M23’s attacks on UN forces.
Eight peacekeepers on board a UN helicopter were killed when M23 shot it down last year. It struck another UN helicopter last month while it was in the air, killing one South African “blue helmet” and injuring another.
Despite this, neither Kagame nor any of the M23 goons have been held accountable for these serious transgressions. This is true both in the ongoing arming, funding, and training of Kagame’s government and army by the US and Britain as well as during phone calls with Sunak, who continues to want his migrant deportation pact with Rwanda.