MADRID, Dec. 9 (EUROPA PRESS) –
The rebel group March 23 Movement (M23) has rejected the accusations made by the United Nations about the murder of more than 130 civilians, including more than a dozen children, in two towns located in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). .
The M23 has said in a statement that it is “astonished” to “discover that an organization of the caliber of MONUSCO can carry out such a botched job”, while it has denounced the “genocide” in areas under government control and the beheading of several people at the hands of the Army and groups that Kinshasa allegedly supports, including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia.
The rebel group has stated that “MONUSCO says that these events took place simultaneously on November 29 in Kishishe and Bambo, but since November 21 there has been no fighting in Bambo.” “M23 does not give credibility to the content of the communique, rejects it and asks the UN to do the same, since the UN Human Rights Office in DRC has caused the loss of reputation of the organization by aligning itself with the government coalition “, has said.
“MONUSCO acknowledges that it has never been on the ground to carry out the investigation, despite M23’s demands to all interested parties to go to Kishishe to carry out the investigation,” he stressed, before asking “why why MONUSCO chose to carry out such an important investigation in an area located 30 kilometers from the place (of the massacres)”.
Thus, the group’s spokesman, Lawrence Kanyuka, has emphasized that “the reason why MONUSCO did not follow the rules and principles of an independent investigation is that it had already supported the erroneous figures given by its circumstantial ally in the Government of DRC, so he couldn’t do anything to jeopardize his ally’s credibility.”
“MONUSCO has violated the code of impartiality by giving a false version of what really happened that day,” he stressed, while calling for “an independent investigation by totally honest and impartial people” into the events “not only in Kishishe, but about abuses and massacres in and around Bwiza, Kitchanga”.
On the other hand, he has condemned “the selective nature of humanitarian organizations when it comes to people displaced in areas under their control” and recalled that on December 7 “he asked humanitarian organizations to give help to 5,000 people who sought refuge in areas under their control, and so far there has been no response”.
MONUSCO indicated on Wednesday that a “preliminary investigation” had confirmed that “the M23 rebels killed at least 131 civilians -102 men, 17 women and twelve children- in acts of reprisals against the civilian population between 29 and on November 30 in Kishise and Bambo”, both located in the province of North Kivu.
“The victims were executed arbitrarily by shooting or using bladed weapons. Eight other people were injured and 60 were kidnapped. At least 22 women and five girls were raped,” MONUSCO said in a statement posted on its website.
Thus, it stressed that “this violence was committed within the framework of a campaign of murders, rapes, kidnappings and looting against these two towns in the territory of Rutshuru in retaliation for the clashes between the M23 and the FDLR — a rebel armed group founded and composed mainly of Hutus responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda– and Mai Mai armed groups”.
MONUSCO explained that during the investigations, 52 victims and witnesses have been interrogated, as well as other sources, who have denounced that the M23 attacked these towns between November 29 and 30 “knocking on doors, opening fire on civilians, looting property and setting fire to houses”.
In this sense, he revealed that witnesses have reported that the M23 prohibited most of the survivors from leaving the area. “Elements of the M23 buried the bodies of the victims, which could be an attempt to destroy evidence,” said MONUSCO, which said that it has not been able to go to these locations for “security reasons.”
“The investigations took place in Rwindi, 20 kilometers from Kishishe, where there is a MONUSCO base and where victims and witnesses have found refuge after the incidents,” he said, before showing his desire to go to Kishishe and Bembo ” to continue the investigations.
“MONUSCO condemns in the strongest terms the unspeakable violence against civilians and calls for unrestricted access to the scene and to the victims in order to provide emergency humanitarian aid,” he said, while applauding the decision of the Congolese authorities to open legal proceedings against those responsible for these acts.
In this context, he reiterated his call for the “immediate cessation of violence against civilians” and called on all “Congolese and foreign” armed groups to “immediately lay down their arms and participate in the respective processes of demobilization, disarmament and reintegration or repatriation , according to the case”.
The M23 has been accused since November 2021 of carrying out attacks against Army positions in North Kivu, despite the Congolese authorities and the M23 signing a peace agreement in December 2013 after fighting since 2012 with the Army, with the support of United Nations troops. UN experts accused Uganda and Rwanda of supporting the rebels, although both countries denied this.
On the other hand, the European Union (EU) announced on Thursday its decision to add eight people to its list of sanctions against the DRC, which were also extended for one year. Among those sanctioned are five members of “armed groups” –M23, FDLR, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) and mai-mai–, a soldier, a politician and a Belgian businessman.
The European External Action Service (EEAS) indicated that “most of them are responsible for serious violations of Human Rights and abuses for supporting the armed conflict in the DRC”, while “others have been sanctioned for inciting violence and exploiting conflict through the illegal exploitation or trade of natural resources”.
“In total, 17 people are subject to restrictive measures from the EU, which have been renewed until December 12, 2023 and consist of travel bans and freezing of funds. In addition, citizens and companies of EU countries are prohibited give funds to those sanctioned,” he explained.
Thus, he explained that the decision was adopted “in the context of the integrated position of the EU in support of the efforts of the DRC authorities to achieve lasting peace and stabilize the eastern part of the country.”
The EEAS also defended that it is also proof of “the active interaction of the EU in the Great Lakes region with the intention of contributing to addressing the underlying causes of insecurity and transforming them into opportunities for the countries of the region and their populations. “. “The Council will continue to closely monitor the situation in the country and may consider additional restrictive measures in light of events,” he concluded.