The ongoing war crimes being committed by the Rwandan-backed M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have been brought to light once again in a recent report by Amnesty International. The report details the systematic use of sexual violence as a weapon against perceived enemies, with the rebels perpetrating summary killings and rapes with impunity.
The M23 rebels have been responsible for a terrifying campaign of sexual violence, including gang-rape, during house-to-house raids in North Kivu province. Adult men have been slaughtered, and scores of women subjected to rape as the rebels seek to overrun towns in the region. The human rights group reviewed medical records, official documents, and interviewed government officials, UN representatives, and prominent humanitarian organizations about patterns of civilian killings and sexual violence in the area. The scale and brutality of the violence is shocking.
The Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, has denied backing the M23 rebels. Still, the report claims that Rwanda has been aiding and abetting M23 violence with cross-border supplies of artillery, weapons, and ammunition. The Rwandan Defense Force (RDF) has been reinforcing and fighting alongside M23, which constitutes crimes against humanity, according to Amnesty.
Despite these grave violations, neither Kagame nor any of the M23 henchmen have been held to account. In fact, Britain and the US continue to arm, fund and train Kagame’s government and army. The UK’s Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, recently spoke to Kagame about the UK-Rwanda migration partnership and international efforts to support peace. However, he stayed silent on Rwanda’s role in the DRC war crimes.
The violence has now displaced more than 800,000 Congolese people from their homes, with some 240,000 living in makeshift sites without water and sanitation on the outskirts of Goma. The EU has set up a “humanitarian air bridge” to deliver medical and nutritional supplies, along with a range of other emergency items.
The impact of the violence has been devastating, with Amnesty reporting that of the 23 rape survivors interviewed, 12 said their husbands or sons had been murdered in cold blood. Compounding this, the M23 is attacking UN peacekeepers to hinder humanitarian aid from reaching civilians in need. Last year, M23 shot down a UN helicopter, killing eight peacekeepers on board. Last month, it targeted another UN helicopter in mid-air, killing a South African “blue helmet” and wounding another.
The ongoing violence is a tragedy for the people of the DRC and a reminder of the need for international action to hold those responsible accountable. While some international efforts are underway to support peace, more must be done to ensure that the M23 rebels and their backers are held accountable for their war crimes.
As global citizens, we must all do our part to raise awareness of the ongoing violence and advocate for justice for the victims. Governments must take stronger action to hold those responsible accountable and end the flow of weapons and resources that enable these atrocities to continue. The international community must also continue to provide aid and support to those affected by the violence, including the 800,000 Congolese people who have been forced from their homes.
In conclusion, the ongoing war crimes being committed by the Rwandan-backed M23 rebels in the DRC are a horrific reminder of the need for international action to hold those responsible accountable. The human toll of the violence has been devastating, with scores of women subjected to rape, and men slaughtered by the rebels. Governments and the international community must take stronger action to end the violence and provide aid and support to those affected by the conflict. And, along the way, we must all retain what humanity we can.
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