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)
THE RWANDA FOCUS
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.
“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.
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…]
“Hunting Fdlr” A Shabel reportage “Responsabilities of genocide in Rwanda have to be shared, beetween hutu and tutsi. The new UN report, published the 1st october 2010 is a step in the right direction. We ask for justice, we ask to make clear what happened in Rwanda. Until that, we will continue to fight to protect our people”. We meet Mister Laforge, the spokesman of FDLR (Democratic forces for the liberation of Rwanda) and his general staff, after two days walking in the forest, in a little thatched hut. The long path starting from the little village of Niabyondo is sometimes like a river because of the torrential rain. The front line, a part of an impenetrable forest, is disputed by the congolese Fardc and the Mai Mai militias, allied with the Fdlr. We are in the Masisi region, north Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo. On the “Goma – Walikale” axis, many military operations are leaded by the governemental forces Fardc. The target are the Fldr forces, and the hutu rwandan refugees. Especially now, after the Un Report, they are a serious threat to the geopolitical stability of the entire region. So dozens of Fardc platoons with tutsi commanders are moving on the axis, with no veichles, no food, no water, no logistics. By foot. In this axis, the villages are every day under attack of unknown militia: rapes, killings, robberies. Mass rape is the new trend here. The victims are women. It is hard to understand who are the responsibles. Here, every armed or bandit group …
Photo: AP Congolese citizens look at tank shells lying next to the roadside, left behind by retreating government troops as they fled an assault by M23 rebels, in eastern Congo, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012. Thousands of Congolese soldiers and policemen defected to the M23 rebels Wednesday, as rebel leaders vowed to take control of all Congo, including the capital Kinshasa. The rebels organized a rally at Goma’s Stadium of Volcanoes Wednesday after seizing control of the strategic city in eastern Congo Tuesday.
Two Palestinian youngsters look through the rubble of their destroyed house after an Israeli air strike in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza strip Photo: EPA/MOHAMMED SABER
“Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die.”
― Herbert Hoover
People gather to listen to the first address by the M23 rebels spokesperson Vianney Kazarama at stadium in goma, Nov. 21.
(Reuters) – Rebel forces in eastern Congo said on Wednesday they planned to take control of the whole of the vast central African country after they captured the eastern town of Goma while United Nations peacekeepers looked on.
A spokesman for the M23 rebels, a group widely believed to be backed by Rwanda, said they planned to “liberate” the country, by moving to the town of Bukavu and then marching on the capital, Kinshasa, nearly 1,000 miles away.
“The journey to liberate Congo has started now … We’re going to move on to Bukavu and then to Kinshasa. Are you ready to join us?” Vianney Kazarama, spokesman for the M23 rebels, told a crowd of more than 1,000 in a stadium in Goma.
The rebels accuse the government of failing to grant them positions in the army, and salaries, in line with a peace deal that ended a previous rebellion in 2009. Alongside that, the rebellion reflects local ethnic conflicts intertwined with Rwanda’s desire to maintain influence over a region on its borders rich in minerals.
The M23 rebellion has aggravated tensions between Congo and Rwanda, which the Congolese government says is orchestrating the insurgency as a means of grabbing the east’s resources, which include diamonds, gold and coltan, used in mobile phones.
The surprise announcement by the rebels came as diplomats at the United Nations and regional mediators in Central Africa have been seeking to prevent an escalation of hostilities in Congo, a resource-rich country the size of Western Europe.
Congolese President Joseph Kabila and Rwandan President Paul Kagame were due to meet later on Wednesday after holding three-way talks with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni late on Tuesday, sources in the Ugandan presidency said.
In New York, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution late on Tuesday condemning the seizure of Goma.
The French government expressed frustration with U.N. peacekeepers, who gave up the battle for the town of 1 million after Congo’s army retreated, saying it was “absurd” that the U.N. force did not protect the city.
Democratic Republic of Congo has accused neighboring Rwanda, whose army had repeatedly intervened in Congo’s conflicts during the last 15 years, of backing the rebels. Kigali denies the charge and has called for dialogue.
Rebels used local radio and television stations to appeal for calm, but there are fears of human rights abuses and tens of thousands of people have already fled days of fighting between the rebels and U.N.-backed Congolese soldiers.
At the United Nations, the 15-member council approved the resolution drafted by France, releasing a statement that “demands the immediate withdrawal of the M23 from Goma, the cessation of any further advances by the M23 and that its members immediately and permanently disband and lay down their arms”.
The council expressed “deep concern at reports indicating that external support continues to be provided to the M23, including through troop reinforcement, tactical advice and the supply of equipment, causing a significant increase of the military abilities of the M23, and demands that any and all outside support to the M23 cease immediately”.
While conflict has simmered almost constantly in Congo’s east in recent years, this is the first time Goma has fallen to rebels since foreign occupying armies officially pulled out under peace deals at the end of the most recent 1998-2003 war.
Aid agencies have estimated that 5 million people have died from fighting and conflict-related disease since the 1998 war began.
Hundreds of rebels, who took up arms in April complaining that Kinshasa had failed to comply with the terms of a deal that ended the rebellion of 2009, poured into the lakeside town on Tuesday.
After sporadic gunfire, government troops melted away to the west.
U.N. peacekeepers who had launched helicopter gunships to back the army did nothing to stop rebels moving into town.
“MONUSCO is 17,000 soldiers, but sadly it was not in a position to prevent what happened,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said of the U.N.’s Congo mission.
“It is necessary that the MONUSCO mandate is reviewed.”
But a senior U.N. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the withdrawal of civilian and military Congolese officials had left a void it could not fill alone.
“We’re not the army of any country, let alone the Congolese army, and it’s not for us to take positions by ourselves to stop a rebel attack or the movement of rebels,” the official said.
“Our job is to protect civilians,” the official added.
Officials in the office of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, the regional mediator for the conflict, said he would seek to host a face-to-face meeting between Congo’s President Joseph Kabila and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame in Kampala on Wednesday.
Congo’s government on Tuesday rejected the idea of talks with rebels. But Rwanda’s foreign minister said the fall of Goma had shown there was no military solution to the crisis, so Kinshasa had to seek the path of dialogue.
The capture of Goma will be an embarrassment for Kabila, who won re-election late last year in polls that provoked widespread riots.
There were pockets of demonstrations against the fall of Goma in other towns, and Kabila faces the tricky choice between dialogue with the rebels, which will be politically unpopular, and trying to rally his scattered forces in North Kivu.
(Additional reporting by Elias Biryabarema in Kampala, John Irish in Paris, Richard Lough in Nairobi, Bienvenu Bakumanya in Kinshasa, Richard Valdmanis, David Lewis and Bate Felix in Dakar and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Giles Elgood and Will Waterman)
Photo: M23 is led by mutinying soldiers
A senior United Nations source told Reuters that international peacekeepers had given up defending the city after the Congolese troops evacuated.
The rebellion has aggravated tensions between Congo and its neighbour Rwanda, which Kinshasa’s government says is orchestrating the insurgency as a means of grabbing the chaotic region’s mineral wealth. Rwanda denies the assertion.
“Despite the attack helicopters, despite the heavy weapons, the FARDC (Congo national army) has let the town fall into our hands,” Colonel Vianney Kazarama, a spokesman for M23 told Reuters by telephone.
He said the rebels had left a corridor open for Congolese forces to evacuate.
Goma’s capture will be an embarrassment for President Joseph Kabila, who won re-election late last year in polls that triggered widespread riots in Kinshasa and which international observers said were marred by fraud.
The senior UN source told Reuters that international peacekeepers had been unable to mount a defence after Congolese troops evacuated.
Streams of residents headed for the nearby border with Rwanda, saying they had been ordered to evacuate by the army. More than 50,000 people who fled fighting earlier this year have abandoned refugee camps around Goma.
M23 is led by mutinying soldiers who rose up eight months ago, contending that Congo’s government violated a 2009 peace deal that was meant to integrate them into the army.
UN experts, however, support the view that Rwanda, which has intervened in Congo repeatedly over the last 18 years, is behind the revolt.
The vast central African nation was shattered by wars between 1994 and 2003 that killed about 5 million people. Many eastern areas are still plagued by violence from a variety of rebel groups, despite UN-backed efforts to defeat them.
The United Nations has about 6,700 peacekeeping troops in North Kivu, including some 1,400 troops in and around Goma.
Source: RTe news/ world
The M23 has been accused of many human rights violations in North Kivu, including rape, abduction and murder. But some say the notorious rebel group in the DRC are not the only ones committing such atrocities. According to young men in the provincial capital of Goma, national police and FARDC soldiers are persecuting innocent people under an egregiously false premise – being allied with the M23.
“Three guys walked into my house. They produced their IDs and said they were from the police and that they came to arrest me because I have helped the M23,” says a young man who does not wish to be identified and who denies the alleged link.
The M23 was formed by ex-fighters from an ethnic Tutsi rebel group that was integrated into the Congolese military in a 2009 peace deal – one whose terms the mutineers claim were never fully implemented. The rebels have been accused of raping women and girls, abducting young men and boys to fight with them and carrying out summary executions. The group operates mainly in towns close to the Rwandan and Ugandan borders.
But Congolese civilians are also pointing fingers at two other forces – the national police and soldiers from the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC). Some people in Goma say they are tired of being accused – without any proof whatsoever – of collaborating with M23 rebels. They say that every day, based on such accusations, the police carry out arbitrary arrests, torture, assault and imprison innocents. They say the list of injustices goes on and on.
“It was torture”
Recalling his encounter with the police, the aforementioned young man says: “They took my phone, my wallet, my voter registration card and all the documents I had on my person. They dragged me over 50 metres and forced me into a car. They said they were from a special police division. I was forced to spend the night in a cell, in terrible conditions. And nobody from my home was informed. It was torture.”
That night, agents of the national police forced the man to pay them. He says they told him: “Look, we’ll help you. Tomorrow, the chief of prison will transfer you to the central prison in Goma. So, just accept everything we tell you to put in the police statement. And then you go find us some money and we will set you free.”
After fetching 150 dollars for them, he was set free. “But they did warn me not to go to other police authorities to file a complaint against them,” he adds.
“Accused me of wanting to steal”
Another victim of such brutalities is a rickshaw driver at Goma airport, who says he was beaten up by members of the FARDC.
“I was waiting for clients when suddenly four soldiers came and started to rough-handle me,” he recalls. “They accused me of wanting to steal the airport plans for the M23 rebels, which is a big lie. They took me to their tent and started to beat me up, all over my body. They used whatever they could get their hands on – their belts, cords, anything.”
Although the rickshaw driver had no money on him, his aggressors let him go, eventually. “But they warned me not to mention to anyone what had happened,” he says, still seemingly shaken by the whole experience. “I was scared their commander wouldn’t believe me, if I would tell him my story. So, I decided to go back home. My family didn’t understand anything. All they could do was to take care of my wounds.” The driver had to wait a whole month to be fit enough to start working again.
North Kivu’s provincial police say they have not been made aware of these incidents. Police spokesman Colonel Jean Marie Malosa says he encourages victims to speak up and file complaints against unruly officers so they can be punished accordingly.
To build on a new, more cooperative relationship with civilians, police claim they have come up with new rules that will take effect imminently. “If we receive a number of complaints from the public, we will reach out a helping hand,” says Malosa. “We have even considered placing suggestion boxes in various neighbourhoods and at the offices of large organizations. If people are afraid to approach us, they can simply tip us off by using these boxes. We will work closely with the district chiefs and obtain information from them.”
If such police policies go into effect, Goma’s victims will have a chance to break their silence on those violations of human rights committed by security forces. But the fact remains that not a single police officer or soldier involved in such atrocities has yet been questioned, let alone arrested.
Source: Gaïus Kowene, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, 26 September 2012
Rebel allies of Rwanda are making rapid inroads
Aug 4th 2012 | GOMA | from the print edition
REBELS in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo have moved to within 25km (16 miles) of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, and are threatening to take it if the Congolese government refuses to negotiate. Most of the rebels once fought for the National Congress for the Defence of the People, a Congolese movement known by its French initials, CNDP, that was previously backed by Rwanda. Most of its members are Tutsis, as are the key people in Rwanda’s government.
Under the terms of a peace deal signed on March 23rd 2009, they were integrated into Congo’s army. But in April, complaining that the terms of the deal had been flouted, they mutinied, calling themselves the M23, a reference to the date of the deal. A UN “group of experts” on Congo subsequently published copious evidence that the M23, like the CNDP before it, enjoyed the support of Rwanda, whose president, Paul Kagame, strenuously denies any such thing.
The M23 is ostensibly led by Sultani Makenga, who is loyal to a former CNDP leader, Laurent Nkunda. The UN panel, however, says the rebel group’s actions are orchestrated by Bosco Ntaganda, who ousted Mr Nkunda as the CNDP’s leader before signing the peace deal in 2009. Mr Ntaganda is wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for war crimes, so the M23 is at pains publicly to distance itself from him.
In any event, the M23 has made rapid advances against a demoralised, ill-disciplined and undersupplied Congolese army. In early July it seized Bunagana, a strategic town on the border with Uganda. It also took Rutshuru, Kiwanja and Rumangabo and is poised to grab the army post at Kibumba, half an hour’s drive from Goma, which is now plainly in its sights.
The M23 may also have infiltrated towns in Masisi district, the CNDP’s heartland during the previous rebellion. A Congolese army regiment in Kitchanga, a trading hub where M23 leaders own a lot of property, consists mainly of former CNDP men. It has not yet joined the M23 mutiny but nor have its commanders sought to arrest M23 people or to seize arms said to be hidden in the town. If Kitchanga and the neighbouring towns of Mweso and Kilolirwe fall to the M23, the rebels would easily be able to take Goma. The UN’s 17,000-strong stabilisation force in Congo has some troops at hand but seems loth to serve as a buffer between the rump of the Congolese army and the rebels.
Should the M23 take Goma or even threaten to do so, Congo’s government may feel obliged to negotiate. If the M23 then struck a deal involving special privileges, Rwanda would acquire, through its unofficial alliance with the M23, a wider sphere of influence in an area rich in minerals. That, say many people on the ground, is just what it wants.