UN Security Council Sanctions Six DRC Armed Group Leaders

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The UN Security Council has sanctioned six senior members of armed groups operating in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where clashes with government forces have intensified in recent weeks.

Among the six added to the sanctions list on Tuesday is Willy Ngoma, a spokesman for the M23 rebels who are known for videos in which he poses with Congolese or Burundian soldiers captured during the fighting.

The sanctions consist of an asset freeze, including in the DRC, and a travel ban.

Ngoma is the fifth senior M23 member to be placed under Security Council sanctions.

The Tutsi-majority rebel group has been accused by the UN and international human rights organizations of having committed numerous massacres, among other atrocities in eastern DRC.

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

The DRC, the United Nations and Western countries say Rwanda is supporting the rebels in a bid to control vast mineral resources, an allegation Kigali denies.

Also added to the list is Michel Rukunda, alias “Makanika,” who leads the Tutsi-majority Twirwaneho armed group that a UN group of experts says is aligned with M23.

A deserter from the Congolese army, Rukunda is accused of participating in the “recruiting or using children in armed conflict in the DRC in violation of applicable international law,” according to the UN sanctions announcement.

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

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

Two leaders of the ADF (Allied Democratic Forces), a Tanzanian and a Ugandan, were also sanctioned.

Their group, associated with the Islamic State group, has been responsible for the deaths of several thousand civilians in eastern DRC and Uganda over the past ten years.

William Yakutumba, commander of a coalition of armed groups generically known as “maimai”, has also been added to the list of crimes committed by his militiamen against civilians.

Christoph Vogel, a researcher at Ghent University and former UN armed groups expert, told AFP that the sanctions will likely “have little impact in a context like Congo, where most war criminals travel little and have no bank accounts abroad.”

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