UN Security Council has imposed sanctions on six high-ranking members in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo


The UN Security Council has imposed sanctions on six high-ranking members of armed groups operating in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where recent weeks have witnessed escalating clashes with government forces.

Among the individuals added to the sanctions list on Tuesday is Willy Ngoma, the spokesperson for the M23 rebels, known for featuring in videos where he poses with Congolese or Burundian soldiers captured during conflicts. The sanctions encompass asset freezes, including within the DRC, and travel bans. Notably, Ngoma becomes the fifth senior member of M23 subjected to Security Council sanctions.

The M23, a Tutsi-majority rebel group, has faced accusations from the UN and international human rights organizations of committing numerous massacres and other atrocities in eastern DRC. Despite a period of relative calm, intense fighting rekindled last month around Goma, the capital of the DRC's North Kivu province.

Allegations persist that Rwanda supports the rebels in an attempt to control valuable mineral resources, a claim vehemently denied by Kigali.

Michel Rukunda, also known as "Makanika," leader of the Tutsi-majority Twirwaneho armed group aligned with M23, has also been added to the sanctions list. A former Congolese army deserter, Rukunda faces accusations of involvement in recruiting or using children in armed conflict in violation of international law.

Rwandan Apollinaire Hakizimana, a member of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a predominantly Hutu group established by former leaders of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, is another addition to the sanctions list. The FDLR is held accountable for numerous serious crimes against civilians in Congo.

Further, two leaders of the ADF (Allied Democratic Forces), one Tanzanian and one Ugandan, have been sanctioned. Associated with the Islamic State group, the ADF has caused the deaths of thousands of civilians in eastern DRC and Uganda over the past decade.

William Yakutumba, commander of a coalition of armed groups collectively known as "maimai," has also faced sanctions for the crimes committed by his militiamen against civilians.

Despite the sanctions, Christoph Vogel, a researcher at Ghent University and former UN armed groups expert, expressed skepticism about their impact in the Congo context, where most war criminals have limited travel and lack foreign bank accounts.


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