Human Rights Watch in a report released on Monday said senior security force officers in the Democratic Republic of Congo mobilized over 200 former M23 rebel fighters from neighboring Uganda and Rwanda to quash protests against President Joseph Kabila at the end of his constitutionally mandated term limit in December 2016.
The 69-page report titled “‘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 killed at least 62 people between December 19 and 22.
Between October and early December 2016, senior Congolese security officers recruited M23 fighters from military and refugee camps in neighboring Uganda and Rwanda, the Rights group said.
The findings are based on over 120 interviews, including with victims of abuse, their family members, witnesses, local activists, nine Congolese security force officers, government and United Nations officials, and diplomats, as well as 21 M23 fighters, commanders, and political leaders.
The M23 (March 23 Movement), a largely Tutsi rebel group, began as a mutiny but rapidly gained ground in North Kivu, taking control of the provincial capital, Goma, in November 2012. It was finally defeated by the Congolese army and the UN’s Force Intervention Brigade.
Earlier this year the Democratic Republic of Congo has accused neighboring Uganda of allowing former M23 rebels to cross the common border, sparking fears of a new armed rebellion and yet more humanitarian suffering in a region long ravaged by violence.