Sanctions against six DRC rebel leaders


The United Nations Security Council has imposed sanctions on six senior members of armed rebel groups operating in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Conflict in this area has increased sharply in the past two weeks, and two South African soldiers were killed in a mortar attack earlier this month.

Among the six rebel leaders added to the sanctions list this week is Willy Ngoma, a spokesman for the M23 rebels who is known for videos in which he poses with captured Congolese or Burundian soldiers.

The sanctions involve the freezing of assets, including in the DRC, and a travel ban.

Ngoma is the fifth senior M23 member to be sanctioned by the Security Council.

This Tutsi rebel group has been accused by the UN and international human rights organizations of being responsible for mass massacres – among other things for atrocities in the east of the DRC.

After several months of relative calm in the region, intense fighting flared up last month around the city of Goma, the capital of the DRC’s North Kivu province.

The DRC, the UN and some Western countries argue that Rwanda supports the M23 rebel group in the east of the DRC in an attempt to gain control over large mineral reserves in the region. This is an allegation that Rwanda denies.

Michel Rukunda, aka “Makanika”, was also added to the sanctions list. He leads the Tutsi-majority armed group Twirwaneho, which the UN says is aligned with M23.

Rukunda, a deserter from the Congolese army, is accused of participating in the “recruitment or use of children in armed conflict in the DRC” which is “contrary to applicable international law”.

The Rwandan Apollinaire Hakizimana, a member of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a predominantly Hutu group formed by former leaders of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, was also placed on the sanctions list.

The FDLR is responsible for many serious crimes against civilians in Congo.

Furthermore, sanctions were also imposed against two leaders of the ADF (Allied Democratic Forces), a Tanzanian and a Ugandan.

Their group, which is associated with the Islamic State, has been responsible for the death of thousands of civilians in eastern DRC and Uganda over the past ten years.

Sankies were also instituted against William Yakutumba, commander of a coalition of armed groups commonly known as “Maimai”, for crimes committed by his militia members against civilians.

Christoph Vogel, a researcher at the University of Ghent and former UN expert on armed groups, told AFP the sanctions would likely have “little impact in a context like Congo, where most war criminals travel little and have no bank accounts abroad do not have”.