Fleeing to ‘the enemy’

A man accused by the Congolese Army of being a spy of M23 rebels is tied and taken away on July 16 in Munigi on the outskirts of Goma (photo AFP/Getty)


22 July 2013


It was the strangest of sights: a group of 85 members of the Congolese Army (FARDC) crossing the Rubavu border into Rwanda. Yet instead of an attack, as one would expect considering the belligerent language coming from Kinshasa, the soldiers on Thursday came begging for refuge, after one and a half day of intensive fighting with the M23 rebels.

The men were received by their RDF colleagues, and handed over to UNHCR officials.

The event follows fresh fighting between FARDC and M23 rebels which started about a week ago in the areas of Mutaho and Kanyarucyinya villages, about 15 kilometers from Goma.


It wasn’t the only defection the FARDC suffered last week. Lieutenant colonel Rwabukamba Mugisha, one of its senior officers, likewise surrendered to the M23. The latter also managed to capture a Tanzanian called Christopher George, believed to be attached to the newly-formed UN intervention brigade, and who was found fighting alongside the genocidal Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in the Rucuru.

The fighting also resulted in the U.N. issuing an official complaint on Friday against mistreatment and mutilation by the FARDC of dead bodies suspected of M23 fighters, as well as mistreatment of detainees. In addition, secretary general Ban Ki-moon last Wednesday said that the UN was revising its support to the Congolese army units.

“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about reports of alleged mistreatment of M23 detainees and desecration of corpses of M23 combatants by the Congolese armed forces,” Ban’s press office said.

“Monusco has launched the process of reviewing its support to FARDC units suspected of being involved in these incidents,” Said Ban statement adding that the Secretary-General calls on the DRC to bring the perpetrators of these reported acts to justice.”

The UN reaction follows an incident in which FARDC showed images of the corpses being pulled on their army pickups on the roads whereas detainees suspected to be members of the M23 rebels were also shown on DRC Television while being mistreated by FARDC. U.N. peacekeepers had reported the abuse of M23 rebels by the Congolese army and requested the Kinshasa government to investigate these claims and to hold the perpetrators of these acts accountable.

‘Not the first time’

Speaking to The Rwanda Focus on Friday, Rene Abandi, the M23 spokesman in charge of foreign affairs, welcomed the U.N. reactions to the FARDC behavior. “It is not the first time FARDC has behaved in such an inhuman way and we are happy that the U.N. has now shown concern about this serious matter,” he said.

Abandi also accused the Kinshasa government of not being responsible regarding the indiscipline and cruelty among the FARDC in the east of the country, saying that whenever they commit crimes, the central government says that it’s FARDC members who have to be held accountable even though they get their commands from Kinshasa.

Abandi“It is not the first time FARDC has behaved in such an inhuman way and we are happy that the U.N. has now shown concern about this serious matter.” 

Rene Abandi, M23 spokesman in charge of foreign affairs

He called upon the international community and the Congolese people to speak the truth about the reasons behind the conflict in the eastern part of the country instead of telling lies. M23 began taking parts of eastern Congo early last year, accusing the DRC government of failing to honor a 2009 peace deal. That deal ended a previous rebellion and led to the rebels’ integration into the army, but they have since deserted again.

Abandi said that there is a need for the international community to always ensure that the DRC leadership is held accountable for the crimes committed by its army and that the culture of impunity prevailing among the FARDC is brought to a halt.

“The M23 will never agree to work with the Kinshasa leadership which is based on ethnic divisionism, unless they change their political agenda and respect all Congolese nationals irrespective of which region or tribe they come from,” Abandi said, adding that nevertheless they are still willing to have a dialogue with the government since it is the only way to bring peace and stability in the eastern Congo.

To complicate matters further, the M23 spokesman accused the FARDC of working with the FDLR, many of whose members have participated in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis. “The issue of the Genocide is an international challenge which requires to be addressed by all nations around the world and it’s in this regard that I encourage the international community to be concerned as to why DRC government is still providing a safe haven to the FDLR rebels who are genocidaires,” Abandi said.

The list of crimes by the FARDC doesn’t end there. In February, the United Nations also threatened to withdraw support for two Congolese battalions after soldiers raped at least 97 women and 33 girls, some as young as 6. According to a U.N. human rights report, the peacekeeping mission decided to keep working with the battalions after 12 senior officers, including the commanders and deputy commanders, were suspended and about a dozen soldiers charged over the rapes in Minova. 

Provocative and deliberate

The arrival of the 85 FARDC soldiers in Rwanda is all the more surprising considering that on Monday, two bombs were fired from an area controlled by the Congolese army and Monusco into Gasiza and Kageshi cells, Busasamana sector in Rubavu.

“Two bombs landed at Kageshi and Gasiza Cells, Busasamana Sector, Rubavu District, Western Rwanda at 3.05pm,” RDF spokesman Brig. Gen. Joseph Nzabamwita was quoted as saying in a statement released by the government.


“This was a provocative and deliberate act by FARDC and Monusco since there was no fighting nearby between the warring factions,” Nzabamwita said, adding that there were no casualties.

However, in a press conference held last Wednesday in Kinshasa, Monusco flatly denied the allegations of “deliberate bombings” of Rwanda territory.

That drew an angry reaction from the Rwandan government, which said that the gratuitous denial by Monusco without prior investigations constitutes a dangerous pattern since it’s not the first time the UN force has denied verifiable attacks on Rwanda territory. The ministry of defense issued a statement indicating that proof of the attack had been verified by the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM).

In addition, defense and military attachés from mainly Western countries on Thursday visited the two Rubavu villages which were hit by the mortar bombs. The attachés included those from the US, Belgium, France, Germany and Tanzania. The envoys were also briefed by Joseph Nzabamwita.

In November last year, during the battle for Goma, FARDC fired 15 bombs into Rwanda territory, killing several civilians. At that time, too, Monusco kept silent and defended itself even when Kinshasa apologized for the bombing, which it said was done by undisciplined officers who fired without orders.

M23 fighters have previously also accused Monusco of lending a hand in attacking their group, but the force denied the accusations, saying the mission has only tried to intervene in the conflict for the purpose of protecting civilians.

“Monusco supports us in logistics. It assists us with combat rations, fuel … It supports us with its aviation when we need to fight the enemy. It also acts to evacuate our wounded at the front, even for moving the military,” said FARDC spokesman Col Olivier Hamuri in a recent statement.


Related articles:

MONUSCO Mortar Rebut Dangerous  (The New Times, 18 July 2013)

The ministry of defence has denounced denial by the UN Mission in the Congo (Monusco) that mortar bombs landed on Rwandan territory from the Congolese side of the border this week, saying the rebuff poses a danger to civilians.

On Monday, the Rwanda Defence Forces protested what it described as “a provocative and deliberate act by FARDC (the Congolese army) and Monusco”, saying the two bombs that landed in Kageshi and Gasiza cells, Busasamana Sector in Rubavu District, originated from the area under Congolese army and the UN peacekeepers control.

Monusco yesterday denied mortars were fired on the Rwandan territory.  [read all…]

Provocative Cross-Border Bombing From DRC ( Rwanda Focus, 15 July 2013)

Rwanda’s ministry of defense has confirmed the deliberate bombing today on Rwandan territory from a DRC area controlled by FARDC and Monusco.

“Two bombs landed at Kageshi and Gasiza cells, Busasamana sector, Rubavu District, Western Rwanda at 15h05,” said military spokesman brig-gen Joseph Nzabamwita. “This was a provocative and deliberate act by FARDC and Monusco since there was no fighting nearby between the warring factions. Fighting between FARDC and M23 started on Sunday, and we have credible information that FDLR is currently embedded in FARDC.”[read all…]



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