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Human Rights Watch, M23 Rebels Feud over Civilian Killings in Rutshuru

M23 rebels have been battling with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo since March this year under a claim of fighting bad leadership based on corruption, xenophobia, and discrimination. They have since captured the major Uganda-DR Congo border of Bunagana and the neighbouring areas.
Major Willy Ngoma, M23 Rebels spokesperson (Photo Credit Samuel Amanya)
The M23 Movement rebels are feuding with an international human rights NGO-Human Rights Watch over the killing of civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern territory of Rutshuru.

M23 rebels have been battling with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo since March this year under a claim of fighting bad leadership based on corruption, xenophobia, and discrimination. They have since captured the major Uganda-DR Congo border of Bunagana and the neighbouring areas.

But in their fight, the M23 rebels have been accused of deliberately killing at least 30 civilians in areas under their control since mid-June, according to a report released before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a bipartisan caucus of the United States House of Representatives on Thursday.

Ida Sawyer, the Director of Human Rights Watch’s Crisis and Conflict Division told the commission that in one of the worst incidents, in the village of Ruvumu on June 21, the M23 rebels killed at least 20 civilians, including two teenagers, accused of having informed the DRC army of their positions and their hiding places. Some were killed as they tried to flee, while others were executed at close range.

Sawyer also argued that two boys, Isaka Mapendo,7, and Jérémie Nziyumvira,6, were killed by an M23 shell which hit a playground in Biruma, a woman and a child by M23 mortar fire in Kisiza and Katwa and a shell that was fired from the Rwandan side of the border destroyed a primary school in Katale. She believes that this rebel movement is committing abuses after its commanders have not been brought to justice for past war crimes.

But, M23 rebels through their spokesperson, Major Willy Ngoma released a statement on Monday accusing Human Rights Watch of losing its ethics and professionalism while dealing with the accusations. The rebels accuse the NGO of failing to gather independent evidence and engaging M23 but instead rushed to publish the report as if it has a media war to win.

M23 also accuses the NGO of failing to get attracted to attention about killings, raping, looting, illegal taxes, and occupancy in mineral-rich areas by Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDRL) rebels.

The rebels also accuse the NGO of remaining tight-lipped about government civil society organizations responsible for spreading a genocidal ideology that has led many victims killed, burned, and some of their bodies subjected to cannibalism. Rebels argue that issues in the report are baseless and are only aimed at tarnishing its image that has legitimate grievances.

Meanwhile fighting between the FARDC and M23 rebels has not been registered for a week but both rebels and government troops have remained in their positions. Some refugees seeking refuge in Bunagana town council and other neighbouring areas in Kisoro cross to Congo during the day but return to sleep.