from JEAN KASSONGO in Kinshasa, DRC
KINSHASA, (CAJ News) – CONGOLESE army units allegedly backed armed groups implicated in serious abuses in the conflict with M23 rebel forces in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Human Rights Watch (HRW) alleged some army officers provided the armed groups with direct support when, between May and August 2022, the Congolese army with a coalition of local militia and Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) fought against the Rwandan-backed M23 in North Kivu province.
“Congolese army units are again resorting to the discredited and damaging practice of using abusive armed groups as their proxies,” said Thomas Fessy, senior Congo researcher at HRW.
“The Congolese government should end this support, which leads to military complicity in abuses, identify officers responsible, and hold them accountable,” Fessy said.
HRW disclosed that since June, it interviewed five fighters from armed groups, seven witnesses of abuses and family members of victims as well as activists, Congolese civilian and military officials, United Nations staff and aid workers.
The M23 offensive in May and the takeover of Bunagana, a trading town at the Uganda border, in June displaced tens of thousands of people.
Despite a lull in the fighting since mid-August, the humanitarian situation in Rutshuru territory remains critical.
This adds to an already dire situation in eastern DRC.
Over the past year, armed groups and at times government soldiers have been accused of widespread abuses, including unlawful killings, sexual violence, and theft.
East African nations are involved in latest interventions to resolve the situation in the troubled DRC.
– CAJ News