BRUSSELS: Former rebels were recruited by Democratic Republic of Congo authorities for a crackdown on protests against the president that left dozens of people dead last year, a rights group stated Monday in a claim denied by the government, reports AFP.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said President Joseph Kabila’s regime had drafted in fighters previously active in the M23 rebel group from neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda to help suppress the December 2016 demonstrations, which erupted when he refused to step down at the end of his constitutional mandate. The allegations coincide with a flare-up of violence after Kabila pushed back a much-delayed new vote until December 2018, with the opposition demanding that the veteran leader resign before then after 16 years in power.
“Senior security force officers in the Democratic Republic of Congo mobilised over 200 former M23 rebel fighters from neighboring countries to quash protests against President Joseph Kabila in December 2016,” HRW said in a report.
It said Congolese security forces acting with M23 fighters killed at least 62 people and arreste
d hundreds more as the protests swept through the vast African country between December 19 and 22 last year.
Hundreds of fighters fled the country but officials and residents in the eastern region of Kivu said they had seen militants return.
M23, a mostly ethnic Tutsi rebel group, was defeated in November 2013 by Congolese forces and troops of a large UN peacekeeping mission in the country.