Kinshasa : Kabila recruited M23 deserters to weaken citizen protest

The Human Rights Watch report says that at least 62 people were killed as security forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) recruited former rebel fighters to quash protests against Kabila, end of last year.

The chair man of M23, Bertrand Bisiimwa says the act of recruiting clandestinely in the Congolese army ex-combatants who are part of the M23 deserters is a strategy of poaching already known by the opinion whose application began within the political parties’ opposition and citizen movements to weaken citizen protest.

“The recruitment and use by the Government of deserters and other undisciplined persons expelled by the M23 for the purpose of repressing the citizens’ protest have as their sole motivation to keep our organization away from the people. This is unacceptable. ”Bisiimwa said. Al Jazeera.

In a report on Monday, December 4th, HRW said more than 200 former M23 fighters were mobilised, during country-wide protests that erupted after Kabila refused to step down at the end of his term.

As well as killing scores of people, Congolese security forces and M23 fighters arrested hundreds more between December 19-22, 2016.

Ida Sawyer, Central Africa director at HRW, said the government’s covert operations to recruit fighters “from an abusive armed group to suppress any resistance show how far President Kabila and his coterie are willing to go to stay in power”.

HRW said its findings were based on more than 120 interviews, including twenty one M23 fighters, commanders and political leaders.

But the M23 rebel movement has broken silence on the report, saying  that its members are being hired by DR.Congo president Joseph Kabila to suppress his political opponents in Kinshasa.

According to statement by the M23 rebel movement chairman Bertrand Bisimwa, the March 23 Movement declines all responsibility of recruiting its former  elements to dismantle demonstrations against President Kabila ahead of 2018 polls.

The mainly Tutsi ethnic group was the largest of dozens of armed groups in eastern Congo, until its defeat by Congolese and UN forces in November 2013. Hundreds of fighters fled, taking refuge in Rwanda and Uganda. Many live in military camps there, awaiting amnesties promised under a peace deal.

Between October and December 2016, as protests against Kabila escalated, senior Congolese officers drafted the former rebels, gave them new uniforms and weapons and deployed them to Congo’s main cities, Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, and Goma.

“To protect the president and quash protests, the M23 fighters were given explicit orders to use lethal force, including at ‘point-blank range’ if necessary,” HRW said.

The rights group renewed calls on the international community for “sustained, targeted and well-coordinated pressure” on Kabila to step down and allow for credible and peaceful elections.

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Jean Baptiste Karegeya

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