For the first time, Human Rights Watch has categorically (and rightly) placed the blame for decades of turmoil in DRC at the door of DRC’s corrupt regimes. In what is considered an unprecedented turn of events, HRW has exposed the Congolese army, FARDC of being the principal sponsor of the most notorious armed groups like FDLR that have terrorized eastern DRC for more than 20 years now.
In one of the paragraphs of the report, HRW mentions one of many occasions, between May and August 2022, where the FARDC in the coalition of Congolese militia as well as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) fought against M23 movement. The Tshisekedi government, the report says, refers to the coalition of armed groups that include FDLR as “forces amie”, or friendly forces. The report also names and shames senior FARDC officers, who were delegated by Tshisekedi to act as the go-between himself and the armed groups led by FDLR.
Senior Congolese military officers in charge of intelligence and logistics served as the link between Tshisekedi, FARDC, and the FDLR’s commanders, whom they give arms and ammunition as well as direct logistical support.
The damning report mentions how FDLR and CMC/FDP fighters have for decades been FARDC partners not only during large counteroffensive operations against the M23 (a Congolese group that Kinshasa signed a peace agreement with, only for the regime to renege on all the points in the agreement) but also in other gross human rights violations. These violations include large numbers of innocent Congolese civilians being killed, raped, and their property getting looted.
HRW documented hundreds of cases of abuses against civilians by the coalition of FARDC and other armed groups, including many killings by FDLR fighters, as well as cases of rape by FARDC. The report also quotes FDLR terrorist fighters who revealed that FARDC leadership has been providing them with not just arms and ammunition, but also the full national army uniforms which are delivered to FDLR fighters in their bases, such as the one in Kazaroho in the Virunga National Park.
This report by HRW’s squarely debunks the endless blame games by Tshisekedi regime officials, and their daily scapegoating of others (especially against Rwanda) and places the blame where it rightly belongs.
It is a very welcome development that will contribute to real solutions to the insecurity and instability in DRC.