The M23 rebellion has acknowledged total defeat by surrendering on November 6, 2013. Thus, a new era has dawned for the suffering populations of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN), committed to peace and justice, salutes the end of hostilities and shares the joy of the populations. The defeat of M23 is in part credited to the international community, especially the USA and some European countries which successfully mounted a diplomatic pressure on Rwanda and Uganda, the long time obvious suspects behind M23 rebellion.
No report can ever cover the full extent of the sufferings that the people endured under the M23. The diplomatic efforts addressing the crisis in the DRC must be redoubled to consolidate peace and rebuild the people’s livelihoods. The Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN), consistent with its advocacy for peace in the DRC since 1996, hopes that the demise of M23 will finally end Rwanda’s proxy wars against the people of DRC. We regret the many lives lost before the surrender of M23 fighters to the Ugandan authorities.
M23 is responsible for many crimes including rape, murder, forced recruitment and child soldiering. The world must remember that a previous iteration of M23, the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), is responsible for the massacre of Kiwanja on November 4-5, 2008. This and other crimes must be addressed so that justice is served. During AFJN’s October 24, 2013 meeting with officials at the State Department in partnership with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) we asked that American citizens or businesses involved in funding rebel activities in the DRC, be it small or large amounts, be seriously held accountable as part of a long term peace plan in DRC.
We energetically denounce Rwanda and Uganda’s attempt to rebrand M23 hours after its remaining fighters decided to disarm. The Ugandan government’s claim that more than 1,500 M23 rebels crossed the border is very suspicious and it is a concern already expressed by the Congolese government. It must be carefully examined because it is the first step in rebranding M23 by attempting to integrate them into the Congolese army. This pattern is well-established. In 2009, before Rwandan soldiers who fought in the ranks of CNDP were integrated in the Congolese army, they lied about their actual numbers. As in the past, AFJN warns the Congolese government and the international community, particularly the United States and others involved in the diplomatic efforts for peace in DRC, that integrating into the Congolese army without carefully identifying rebel fighters is a threat to lasting peace.
We recommend the following actions to all governments and entities invested in peace efforts in DRC (particularly the United States) in order to consolidate lasting peace after the demise of M23:
- Carefully identify every single M23 fighter captured or surrendered before demobilizing or integrating those who qualify in the army. This process should involve local people and DNA testing for the most suspicious subjects.
- In accordance with international laws and treaties, ensure the extradition of all M23 fighters currently in Rwanda and Uganda and also all former CNDP leaders, particularly Laurent Kunda who currently lives in Rwanda under the protection of the Rwandan government
- Support the democratic process in the origin nations of foreign rebel groups in order to facilitate their return Specifically in the cases of the Rwandan FDLR, the Burundian FNL, and the Islamic Ugandan ADF-NALU (which currently are believed to have Somali Al-Shabab militants in its ranks). Supporting democracy is crucial to helping put an end to constitutional dictatorial regimes causing trouble in the region.
- Put in place the mechanisms of sanctions against Rwanda and Uganda if they continue destabilizing the DRC.
- Further investigate and hold accountable, individuals and states, responsible of supplying sophisticated weapons to M23.
- Make the recovery of all weapons hidden in the Virunga National Park by M23/ CNDP a priority; their existence has been documented in the “Interim report of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo”, S/2009/253, paragraphs 33-34.
- In the spirit of the peace framework signed by 11regional nations, other nations particularly the United States and Europe to track down and hold accountable individuals or companies that have been financing rebel activities in RDC. The Rwandan Claude Nsegiyumva and his partners in Boston, Massachusetts/ US must be held accountable for the shipment of military uniforms to CNDP, transformed into M23, in October 2008 as documented in the UN “Final report of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo” paragraph 28.
- Encourage more institutional reforms in DRC, including respect for the constitution and holding the long overdue local elections.
- Push for the adoption of the Specialized Mixed Court, recommended by the UN group of experts in the Mapping Report released on October 1st, 2010 to try those responsible for the worst human rights violations in the DRC.
- Urge for more justice and security sector reform, starting with justice for the victims of the November 2013 Minova mass rapes by the Congolese army, and the case of Major General Gabriel Amisi Kumba known as Tango Four alleged to have, among other things, supplied arms to rebels while commanding the Congolese army. (Send comments to email@example.com)