The “combatants” of the M23 rebel group killed 17 people – including four children – last Tuesday during an “act of retaliation against the civilian population” in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the UN reported today. .
“The attacks are extremely serious,” the UN Joint Human Rights Office for the DRC (UNJHRO) announced on its Twitter social network account on Sunday.
The murders took place in the towns of Nkokwe and Bugina, which belong to the territory of Rutshuru and the province of North Kivu (northwest).
“The UNJHRO reminds that these acts may constitute a war crime, an imprescriptible crime whose authors must be found and punished,” added this UN institution.
In 2012 and 2013, when the M23 rebels carried out a major offensive against the Congolese Armed Forces, UNJHRO has already documented numerous human rights violations by the armed group, including rape, killings of civilians, and kidnappings, among others.
Since last March, the M23 rebels have led another strong offensive against the positions of the Congolese Army in the province of North Kivu.
In addition to successfully taking the strategic town of Bunagana – a major trading and trucking hub on the DRC-Uganda border – on June 13, the rebels have extended their control over other towns in recent weeks, they said. to Efe leaders of civil society.
The M23 combats have also generated an escalation of diplomatic tensions between Rwanda and the DRC, since the Congolese government accuses the Rwandan Army of collaborating with the rebels, an extreme that Kigali has always denied.
The spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), Frederic Harvey, stressed that, at present, “no factual confirmation” is known of Rwanda’s collaboration with the M23.
The M23 was founded in early 2012 as a splinter of the former National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), a group of rebels mostly of Rwandan origin that fought against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) on the ground. congolese
The FDLR, for its part, was formed in 2000 by some ringleaders of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and other exiled Rwandans in the neighboring DRC with the aim of regaining political power in their country of origin.
In November 2012, the M23 quickly advanced to occupy the city of Goma, capital of North Kivu, for two weeks, but international pressure forced the group to withdraw and begin peace negotiations with the Congolese government.
Then, the UN investigators accused the M23 of counting on the economic-military support of Rwanda and even of receiving direct orders from senior officials of the Rwandan Army, something that Kigali categorically denied.
Since the rebels and the Congolese government signed a peace agreement in 2013, tensions between the two parties have been frequent, with the M23 lamenting the slow implementation of some of the agreed points.
The east of the DRC has been mired in a conflict fueled by rebel militias and attacks by Army soldiers for more than two decades, despite the presence of MONUSCO, with more than 14,000 troops.
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