UN Demands End To Outside Support For M23 Rebels, Renews DRC Sanctions


Reiterating its demand for an end to any and all outside support to the insurgency ravaging the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, the UN Security Council renewed Wednesday until 1 February 2014 the arms embargo and related sanctions on that country, and requested the Secretary-General to extend the mandate of the Group of Experts monitoring those measures.

Unanimously adopting resolution 2078 (2012) under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the Council further defined the criteria for application of targeted sanctions, expressing its intention to consider additional sanctions against the leadership of the 23 March Movement (M23). The Council recently condemned the rebel group for attacks and human rights violations leading up to its capture of the major city of Goma, as well as against those providing external support to it.

United Nations Headquarters
United Nations Headquarters

By its current resolution, the Council reiterated its deep concern that reports indicated that such support to M23 continued to be provided in the form of troop reinforcements, tactical advice and equipment. The Council also noted with concern the persistence of serious human rights abuses committed by M23 and other armed groups against civilians in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, including summary executions, gender-based violence and “large-scale recruitment and use of child soldiers”.

Established in 2003, the sanctions regime, renewed today, consists of an arms embargo against armed groups in the country that are not part of the Government’s integrated army or police units, as well as a travel ban and an asset freeze on violators of the embargo and other persons and entities designated by the Sanctions Committee.

Following the adoption, Christian Atoki Ileka, Ambassador of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to France, thanked the Expert Group for resisting external pressure and producing an objective final report that highlighted the role of external players in serious crimes and violations of Council resolutions, leading to the destabilization of the eastern part of his country. He said that by supporting M23, the Rwandan Government was deliberately violating the arms embargo, providing weapons and advice and facilitating the group’s recruitment activities.

Naming high Rwandan Government officials that he said were involved in facilitating support to the M23, he said that the proof of Rwandan support “is incontrovertible”, in the form of human witnesses and written materials. In addition, he pointed to sophisticated materiel, including night vision capabilities and artillery that he said led to the fall of Goma, and which were not available in the region except through Rwanda. He noted that Rwanda had been invited to respond to the Group of Experts’ findings, but was unable to provide substantiation for its denials of involvement.

Rwanda’s support for the M23, he maintained, constituted an act of aggression, a State crime, violating the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and incompatible with the United Nations Charter. It had also led to massive human rights violations and a humanitarian crisis. It had, further, made more difficult carrying out arrest warrants on leaders of the M23 as imposed by the International Criminal Court.

He expressed thanks for the announcement of sanctions for M23 supporters, but said that so far, such measures had fallen short of targeting the Rwandan high officials shown to be involved. In that context, he asked the Council to take a “firm and unequivocal position” in applying the asset freeze and travel ban on all those implicated by the Group of Experts’ report and the High Commissioner for Human Rights. He also asked that M23 be listed as a terrorist group like the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). Such measures could also make it possible to prevent further exploitation of the natural resources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Mr. Ileka said that his country was open to dialogue with the “true protagonist in the conflict”, Rwanda, but would not be content with easy agreements that did not resolve the problem. He called on the good offices of the United Nations to be involved in facilitating dialogue, as well as for more effective peacekeeping work on the part of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO).

Taking the floor next, Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda’s representative, countered that his country was not the cause of the crisis in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo nor was it a party in the conflict. In fact, he said, Rwanda’s President had met with the Congolese and Ugandan Presidents after the fall of Goma and had signed onto a joint declaration calling for an end to the M23 rebellion, as well as an examination of the complaints of the insurgents. He reiterated the call for the two Congolese parties to implement that declaration, and requested the Security Council to help that implementation.

Falling into the trap of sanctions, the Council undermined that political path, he said, maintaining that some countries on the Council had a “crusade” against Heads of State in his region, at the same time that the Council included countries who were previously involved in encouraging the earlier part of the Congolese civil war, for their own national interest.

He said his country had provided a detailed, 130-page response to the allegations of the Group of Experts, but the members of the Group did not want to discuss that response. His country had also obtained a legal opinion that showed that the production of the reports did not respect the rules of the Council. Rwanda received no response to that communication. Not only was the response not incorporated into the reports, but the Group was also led by an individual prejudiced against one of the parties.

He asked how his country could have provided 4,000 people to fight along with the M23 without any positive proof, adding that MONUSCO and regional mechanisms had concluded that no such proof existed. The Democratic Republic of the Congo was a huge country with many armed groups operating in a security vacuum. It could not be assumed that if weapons appeared it must be Rwanda that was providing them.

Finally, he said that projectiles had been fired into his country in recent days and the FDLR had attacked it, but the Security Council had remained silent about those violations. His President and the Congolese President remained in contact on a regular basis. The two countries were “blood brothers” and would work together for a solution to the crisis. He pledged Rwanda’s continued support to efforts by the Secretary-General for inter-Congolese dialogue and to work with the Council to end the crisis, as well as all other crises that plagued the world.

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