Tuesday, September 11, 2012

M23 atrocities in eastern Congo predicted

Human Rights Watch has released a scathing report on abuses being committed by the Rwandan-backed, ethnic Tutsi group M23, now wreaking havoc in eastern Congo.

HRW does the best work of any humanitarian/rights group in the region and their research is impeccable.

That M23, the successor group to the notorious ethnic Tutsi CNDP, is committing atrocities was predictable and I wrote as much in Consuming the Congo: War and Conflict Minerals in the World's Deadliest Place, back in 2010.

At the time, the CNDP (a French acronym for the National Congress for the Defense of the People), had been incorporated into the hapless Congolese army. It was a foolish gesture by the Congolese to appease the various ethnic militias fighting over the region's minerals.

As I wrote in Consuming the Congo, it was bad idea and doomed to failure. The CNDP would only play along as long as they and their leader, the notorious Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, could continue to plunder the region's resources.

Even then, people in the region knew that the CNDP had stockpiled weapons for the day when the arrangement would collapse. It didn't take long.

The trigger came when the Congolese authorities made it known that Ntaganda was about to be arrested and taken to The Hague to face trial. Ntaganda would have none of that, of course, since he and his Rwandan backers were making too much money.

Ntaganda, it must be noted, was deeply involved in the $10 million gold scandal in 2010 that was thwarted by Congolese authorities who refused to let Ntaganda get away with that sale without getting a piece of the action. After the gold was siezed, its whereabout remain unknown.

So now the old CNDP, which has morphed in to M23, is back to killing, plundering and raping. Ntaganda remains free. Rwanda refuses to acknowledge any connection to the group, as always. Instead, Rwanda and President Paul Kagame collected praise and admiration from people such as former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Clinton should know better and should not be dirtying his hands, since the truth of the situation in eastern Congo is in the HRW report, according to Reuters:

"The M23 rebels are committing a horrific trail of new atrocities in eastern Congo," Anneke van Woudenberg, HRW's senior Africa researcher, said.

One victim said that M23 fighters had burst into her home, beaten her son to death and repeatedly raped her before dousing her legs in petrol and setting her ablaze, the rights group said.

HRW also said that at least 600 men and boys have been forcibly or unlawfully recruited in neighboring Rwanda, with recruitment continuing after allegations of Rwandan complicity were published in an interim UN report in June.

"The United Nations Security Council should sanction M23 leaders, as well as Rwandan officials who are helping them, for serious rights abuses," van Woudenberg said.

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