Senior security force officers in the Democratic Republic of Congo mobilized over 200 former M23 rebel fighters from neighboring countries to quash protests against President Joseph Kabila in December 2016, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Monday (December 4).
Kabila has since strengthened his hold on power and delayed elections, raising concerns that planned protests will be met with further violence and repression.
The 69-page report, “‘Special Mission’: Recruitment of M23 Rebels to Suppress Protests in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” documents that Congolese security forces along with recruited M23 fighters from Uganda and Rwanda killed at least 62 people and arrested hundreds more during country-wide protests between December 19 and 22, 2016 when Kabila refused to step down at the end of his constitutionally mandated two-term.
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
M23 fighters patrolled the streets of Congo’s main cities, firing on or arresting protesters or anyone else deemed to be a threat to the president.
“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,” said Ida Sawyer, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch and one of the report’s authors. “Congolese officials should end all unlawful use of force against protesters and allow peaceful political activities by activists and the political opposition.”
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