Massive displacement and human rights violations from renewed violence
Former leader of the Congrès national pour la défense du peuple (CNDP) rebel group Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) since 2006 for recruiting child soldiers, reportedly instigated a mutiny in March 2012 in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to regional media reports, Ntaganda began seizing areas in the province as of 2 9 April, gaining additional support from defections from the CNDP, which was integrated into the national Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) in 2009. The resulting group of rebels, called the M23 movement and led by Ntaganda, has been fighting against the FARDC primarily in the town of Bunagana, near the Ugandan border.The increased violence resulted in massive displacement of civilians and has hindered humanitarian access. Reports in late May from aid workers in the region suggested that executions and mutilations were also perpetrated by rebel militias involved in the fighting.
On 14 May then ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, announced he would seek new charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity to be brought against Ntaganda. On 22 May, United Nations (UN) Envoy to the DRC and Head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO), Robert Meece, stated that “[Ntaganda’s] actions at the time …were probably provoked by fear that the net was closing in on him for an arrest or other action against him.” The same day, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that the violence resulted in “significant” displacement of civilians, forcing some to cross into Uganda and Rwanda, and that the Office had learned from Ugandan authorities that 13,000 to 15,000 refugees entered the country in the days following the mutiny.
On 31 May, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the DRC, Fidele Sarassoro, issued a press release stating that MONUSCO needed unhindered access to citizens and calling on “all parties to the conflict to respect human rights and international law and to spare civilians from the violence.” Nonetheless, while briefing the UN Security Council (UNSC) on 12 June, Meece stated that humanitarian access remained greatly hindered in areas immersed in conflict and MONUSCO had credible information regarding large scale killings and the exacerbation of serious crimes being committed, including forms of sexual violence. In a 15 June press statement the UNSC strongly condemned the mutiny and the human rights violations committed against civilians, and called on “all the countries in the region to actively cooperate with the Congolese authorities in demobilizing the M23 and all other armed groups and preventing them from receiving outside support.” Having called for prompt investigations into allegations of human rights violations on 31 May, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay reiterated her concern for populations in the North Kivu region on 19 June, describing M23’s leaders as being “among the worst perpetrators of human rights violations in the DRC.” Pillay stated that, “Every effort must be made to hold these men, and the soldiers under their command, accountable for human rights violations committed against civilians -- both for crimes committed within the context of the current mutiny, and also for offences committed previously.”
Alleged Rwandan government support for M23
On 28 May, BBC released information from a leaked internal UN report that the Rwandan government was supplying soldiers to rebel forces in DRC. These individuals were allegedly trained in Rwanda under the pretext of joining the national army, and then sent to the DRC to fight against the FARDC. The Rwandan government responded saying that the report is “categorical lies”. Soon after, on 4 June 2012, Human Rights Watch issued a press release reporting that the Rwandan government had allowed Ntaganda cross the border into Rwanda and supplied him with recruits, weapons and ammunition. HRW called on Rwanda to stop “aiding war crimes suspect”.
Civil society calls on international community to take steps to protect population
On 11 June, International Crisis Group (ICG) issued an open letter to the UN Security Council (UNSC) bringing attention to MONUSCO’s failure to fulfill its mandate and the need for reform of the mission’s strategies. ICG further provided recommendations to the UNSC to increase stability in the region and support MONUSCO operations. Other NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch on 3 June and Amnesty International on 12 June, urged the importance of ceasing arms flows to Rwanda and the DRC. Throughout the course of the unfolding violence, many aid agencies have also voiced concern regarding the deteriorating situation.
1. DR Congo: Arms supplies fuelling unlawful killings and rape
12 June 2012
Political leaders must act immediately and halt arms supplies to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where they continue to fuel unlawful killings, rape, looting and abductions, Amnesty International said in a new report published today.
The report, ‘If you resist, we’ll shoot you’, highlights how Congolese security forces and armed groups alike are able to commit serious human rights violations because of the ease of which weapons and ammunition are available. (…)
Amnesty International’s report shows how fundamental flaws in the Congolese security apparatus allow the persistent misuse and diversion of weapons and ammunition which in turn pave the way to ongoing serious human rights and humanitarian law violations and abuses by the armed forces and armed groups. (…)
In addition to strengthening the existing arms embargo to the DRC, political leaders must agree to a strong Arms Trade Treaty.
Amnesty International is calling for an Arms Trade Treaty that requires supplying states to undertake a rigorous case-by-case risk assessment of each proposed arms transfer.
States must determine if there is a substantial risk that the arms are likely to be used by the intended recipient to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. (…)
Arms transfers to Government forces also sustain more human rights violations, including mass rape and other acts of sexual violence. Between 31 December 2010 and 1 January 2011, FARDC soldiers attacked the village of Bushani in North Kivu province. The soldiers raped nearly 50 women – aged 16 to 65 – firing gunshots in the air and threatening them with death if they resisted. (…)
2. Open Letter to the United Nations Security Council on the Situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo
International Crisis Group
11 June 2012
History is again repeating itself in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). There is a risk of serious escalation of violence and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO) is failing in its core mandate of stabilisation and protection of civilians. This month's renewal of MONUSCO presents a vital opportunity for the Security Council to review its strategy in the DRC.
Eastern Congo is again rapidly destabilising with the defection of Bosco Ntaganda from the Congolese army and the formation of the M23 Movement, another Tutsi-led rebellion allegedly supported by Rwanda. The government, weakened by presidential and legislative elections last November that were widely recognised as deeply flawed, is seizing the opportunity to please the international community by at last pursuing the capture of Ntaganda. President Joseph Kabila seems to be gambling that this is an opportunity to break the parallel structures maintained by the Congrès national pour la défense du peuple's (CNDP) within the army, and to remobilise domestic support around anti-Rwanda sentiment by pursuing a military defeat of the M23. In addition to the fragmentation of the army and new fighting between the Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC) and ex-CNDP elements, various Mai-Mai groups have expanded their reach and the F orces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) remains a persistent, if diminished threat, as the FARDC fails to control territory.
The stabilisation strategy underpinned by MONUSCO was centred too heavily on an expectation that the 2008-2009 rapprochement between DRC and Rwanda was enough to contain the conflict in the Kivus. (…) The 2008 and 2012 crises appear remarkably similar, including their ethnic dimension, reported support from Rwanda and the negative impact on civilians, including displacement and potential for increasing ethnic tensions at the community level. These crises are symptoms of unresolved regional and local conflicts over access to land and resources, as well as a failure to achieve structural reform within the security sector, poor governance and non-existent rule of law, and the inability to address the sources of financing for armed groups, end impunity and extend state authority, including through decentralisation.
In this context, it would be a mistake if the Security Council seeks to make only minor adjustments to the current course in renewing MONUSCO's mandate. Without a new approach and re-engagement by the Security Council, MONUSCO risks becoming a $1.5 billion empty shell.
MONUSCO has lost credibility on several fronts and urgently needs to reorient its efforts.
First, the mission has had strikingly little success at fulfilling its primary objective to protect civilians, though some of its innovative operational improvements should be acknowledged and encouraged. (…)
Secondly, MONUSCO technical and logistical support to deeply flawed elections in 2011 and the inability to successfully promote dialogue between the parties has altered perceptions about the Mission's impartiality. Neither the Security Council nor MONUSCO articulated clear red lines for the credibility of the process, and the good offices role of the Mission appeared underutilised. (…)
The Security Council should undertake a review of MONUSCO's strategy and improve performance.
MONUSCO's focus on the use of force to stabilise the Kivus is not enough. (…) What is required is a comprehensive strategy and sustained local and regional engagement by the international community. (…)
Security sector reform (SSR) is vital to stability in the DRC, but little progress can be expected without serious re-engagement and support from all sides, including the government, MONUSCO, the UN Security Council and key partners. Without a clear commitment from President Kabila and the government to a broader peacebuilding agenda, SSR will continue to flounder. (…)
The Security Council should send a signal to the Congolese government and its partners that it is time for a new strategic dialogue. A business-as-usual rollover of MONUSCO's mandate will send the wrong message to all parties.
When renewing MONUSCO's mandate, the Security Council should:
• Call on the Congolese government to arrest Bosco Ntaganda and transfer him to the International Criminal Court for trial;
• Demand the end to illegal cross-border support to armed groups operating in the DRC, notably by Rwanda, and consider consequences for those parties who do not cease support;
• Request the Secretary-General to undertake a strategic review of MONUSCO’s stabilisation strategy and report back to the UN Security Council, including on the development and implementation of a comprehensive strategy, with a strong political component, to address pervasive insecurity and the threat of illegal armed groups in eastern Congo.
• Enhance attention to key governance reforms -- such as the holding of credible provincial and local elections, decentralisation and progress in the fight against corruption -- by updating operative paragraph four of Security Council resolution 1991 (2011) to include their achievement as one of the core objectives that is the basis for decisions on reconfiguration of the mission;
• Insist on the holding of free, fair and credible provincial and local elections, as well as the timely re-organization of legislative elections in Masisi territory that were canceled by the CENI;
• Articulate clear standards for the holding of elections and condition MONUSCO support on serious reform of the CENI and improved transparency in the logistics and supply procedures and accountability for past election-related human rights violations.
3. DR Congo: Rwanda Should Stop Aiding War Crimes Suspect
Human Rights Watch
4 June 2012
Rwandan military officials have been arming and supporting the mutiny in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) of Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC), Human Rights Watch said today.
Rwandan military officials have allowed Ntaganda to enter Rwanda and supplied him with new recruits, weapons, and ammunition. Ntaganda is sought on an ICC arrest warrant for recruiting and using child soldiers. (…)
Field research conducted by Human Rights Watch in the region in May 2012 revealed that Rwandan army officials have provided weapons, ammunition, and an estimated 200 to 300 recruits to support Ntaganda’s mutiny in Rutshuru territory, eastern Congo. The recruits include civilians forcibly recruited in Musanze and Rubavu districts in Rwanda, some of whom were children under 18. Witnesses said that some recruits were summarily executed on the orders of Ntaganda’s forces when they tried to escape. (…)
Providing weapons and ammunition to Ntaganda’s mutiny contravenes the United Nations Security Council arms embargo on Congo, which stipulates that all states shall “take the necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer, from their territories or by their nationals […] of arms and any related materiel, and the provision of any assistance, advice or training related to military activities […] to all non-governmental entities and individuals operating in the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” (…)
In addition to being sought on an ICC arrest warrant, Ntaganda is on a United Nations Security Council sanctions list, barring him from any travel outside Congo. Under the UN sanctions, Rwanda − like other countries − is obligated to “take the necessary measures to prevent the entry into or transit through their territories of all persons” on the sanctions list. (…)