Sunday, September 16, 2012

War Crimes: Rwanda government dragged again in DR Congo for supporting M23 rebels

Families flee fighting between the Congolese army and M23 rebels in Rutshuru territory, eastern Congo in May 2012.

© 2012 Human Rights Watch
By Manuel Odeny
The Rwanda government has been accused of committing war crimes after being dragged again in DR Congo conflict by supporting the M23 rebels.

In a new research by Human Rights Watch between May and September this year which interviewed 190 Congolese and Rwandan victims Rwanda has been implicated to be complicit in war crimes through continued military assistance to M23 rebels.
This new report collaborates the June United Nations Security Council by Group of Experts Democratic Republic of Congo which led to Rwanda being sanctioned and denied aid for supporting the rebels against sanctions.

The two findings accuse Rwanda of the following:
·         Direct assistance in the creation of M23 through the transport of weapons and soldiers through Rwandan territory
·         Recruitment of Rwandan youth and demobilized ex-combatants as well as Congolese refugees for M23
·         Provision of weapons and ammunition to M23
·         Mobilization and lobbying of Congolese political and financial leaders for the benefit of M23
·         Direct Rwandan Defence Forces (RDF) interventions into Congolese territory to reinforce M23
·         Support to several other armed groups as well as Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC) mutinies in the eastern Congo
·         Violation of the assets freeze and travel ban through supporting sanctioned individuals.3

This contravenes the Security Council resolution that states “all States shall take the necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer, from their territories or by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of arms and any related materiel, and the provision of any assistance, advice or training related to military activities, including financing and financial assistance, to all non-governmental entities and individuals operating in the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo;”.
Following this report senior Rwanda official are at risk of facing ICC trials at the Hague for being party of the M23’s widespread war crimes, including summary executions, rapes, and forced recruitment.

In July, several hundred Rwandan army soldiers, possibly more, were deployed to eastern Congo to assist the M23 take the strategic border post town of Bunagana, Rumangabo military base, the towns of Rutshuru, Kiwanja, and Rugari, and surrounding areas,” HRW says.

Witnesses, especially M23 defectors say Rwandan forces enter DR Congo through various footpaths near Njerima, Kanyanje and through Ugandan territory and vehicles around Sabyinyo volcano.

Ugandan media has reported Rwandan military arrested in the country as they head to DR Congo.

HRW says Rwanda “had directed, or helped to direct, military operations, provided weapons, or supervised the training of new recruits.”

M23 in Congo has forcibly recruited 286; of whom at least 68 were children under 18, 24 of them under 15 with Rwandan military recruits by-passing them with estimated 600 of its citizens by force to fight.

Most Rwandan recruits are “men and boys with no previous military experience and Congolese Tutsi refugees living in refugee or transit camps in Rwanda. Others targeted for recruitment included demobilized soldiers from the Rwandan army, the CNDP, and demobilized fighters from the FDLR who had returned to Rwanda.”

Sadly FDLR are a largely Rwandan Hutu militia group operating in Congo, some of whose members participated in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

“There are lots of children with [M23 ICC suspect General] Ntaganda now, and they send us to the front lines so we’re the first to die. It’s as if they take us to kill us,” a 17-year-old Rwandan boy who was recruited in June in Ruhengeri told HRW.

So why does Rwanda recruit its citizens for rebels? A M23 combatant is succinct, “We have a small number of soldiers, and Rwanda has many, we recruit everywhere in Rwanda. We look especially for those with families in Congo, former CNDP fighters, or demobilized soldiers. The street children are also very susceptible to recruitment.”

But Rwanda and M23 continue to deny such allegations. Earlier as an undergrad student I had published an OpEd in this blog, The EastAfrican, Daily Nation and other papers (read it here) on why Rwanda and Uganda who have pilfered Eastern DR Congo resources will not support any report in the country.

The two who claim DR Congo has been used to front rebels in their countries have their armies and presidents to be profiteers and glutton mineral thieves.

Rwandan president Paul Kagame has resorted to dictatorship by forcing the world to bend to his whims by using the genocide guilt card and economic development under his rule as the carrot and its army in UN peace keeping mission in the region as the stick for submission.

And following the same script the Rwandan defense minister, James Kabarebe (he was named in the June UN report, full list later) in an interviews with Belgian newspaper Le Soir on August 29 said, “Everyone knows that Rwanda does not have a single soldier amongst the M23 and does not give it any support.”

M23 leadership has also denied any report linking it to war crimes extensively.

About M23
Wanted: M23 General Bosco Ntaganda
The rebel M23 are soldiers who mutinied to protest the Congolese government’s failure to fully implement the March 23, 2009, peace agreement (hence the name M23), which had integrated them into the Congolese army and was started in late March and May.

Most M23’s senior commanders have well-known histories of serious abuses, ethnic massacres, recruitment of children, mass rape, killing, abductions and torture with some being blacklisted by UN and wanted by ICC.

General Bosco Ntaganda led the mutiny following Congolese government attempts to weaken his control and increased calls for his arrest and surrender to the ICC others are Sultani Makenga, Col. Innocent Zimurinda, Col. Baudouin Ngaruye and Col. Innocent Kayna.
HRW reports that with such tainted past both Ntaganda and Zimurinda have traveled to openely Rwanda since April to seek logistical support against international sanctions and arrest warrants on them.

“The Rwandan government’s repeated denials that its military officials provide support for the abusive M23 rebels beggars belief, the United Nations Security Council should sanction M23 leaders, as well as Rwandan officials who are helping them, for serious rights abuses.”  Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior Africa researcher with HRW says.

According to the earlier report by UN the following Rwandan officials were extensively named and should be sanctioned and brought to justice:
·         General Jacques Nziza, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence he  supervises all military, financial, and logistic support as well as mobilization activities related to M23.
·         General James Kabarebe, the Rwandan Minister of Defence, with the support of his personal secretary Captain Celestin Senkoko for recruitment and mobilizing of political and military support to M23. Kabarebe has often been in direct contact with M23 members on the ground to coordinate military activities;
·         General Charles Kayonga, the RDF Chief of Staff, manages the overall military support to M23. Kayonga is frequently in communication with Makenga and oversaw the transfer of Makenga’s troops and weapons through Rwanda;
·         The military support on the ground, recruitment of civilians and demobilized soldiers for M23 has been channelled by General Emmanuel Ruvusha, RDF Division commander based in Gisenyi, as well as General Alexi Kagame and RDF Division commander based at Ruhengeri. Both facilitate
·         Colonel Jomba Gakumba, a native of North Kivu, who used to be an RDF instructor at the Rwandan Military Academy at Gako.

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