UN must put pressure on Rwanda over Eastern DRC conflict

Reports of ‘M23’ rebels using heavy artillery and forcibly recruiting civilians

The UN Security Council must call on the Rwandan government to stop providing support for the “M23” armed group in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) North Kivu province, Amnesty International said today as the UN redeployed peacekeepers to the main eastern city of Goma.

In the past few days, the M23 - led by Bosco Ntaganda, a former general in the Congolese army currently under an International Criminal Court arrest warrant - has driven back the Congolese government army in a determined offensive and the UN and the authorities in eastern DRC say neighbouring Rwanda has been backing the armed group.

While the M23 is threatening to attack Goma, recent reports indicate that the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda - whose leaders are believed to have taken part in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda - and other armed groups such as the Mai Mai are also in Rutshuru territory, increasing the fear of violence against civilians.

Amnesty has received reports from numerous sources that M23 is using heavy artillery and continues to forcibly recruit civilians. According to credible sources, two civilians were killed by the M23 in Bunagana on Sunday after they refused to join the group, while two more were killed during the fighting.

Although Rwanda appears to have breached a UN arms embargo, the UN Security Council has done nothing to put pressure on the country to end its support for the M23, which has recently been strengthened with heavy artillery and new recruits.

Amnesty International Africa Deputy Director Aster van Kregten said:

“While redeploying UN troops to Goma to protect civilians is a positive step, the situation in the North Kivu is so tense that it has the potential to turn into a regional conflict if the international community does not take urgent measures.

“The Council must condemn the reported breach of the UN arms embargo by Rwanda and take concrete measures to prevent any further violations of human rights or international humanitarian law.

“The recent violence in North Kivu has already led to human rights abuses against civilians and any escalation in the violence will place civilians at further risk.

“The future of the eastern Congolese people now mainly lies in the hands of the UN Security Council. It’s crucial that MONUSCO now uses its mandate to effectively protect civilians.”

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