The Democratic Republic of Congo’s government recruited fighters from a rebellion it
defeated in 2013 to suppress protests by opponents of President Joseph Kabila in December last year, Human Rights Watch said. Senior Congolese security officials mobilized “at least 200 and likely many more” M23 combatants from camps in Rwanda and Uganda, where many fighters have been based since the armed group’s defeat in November 2013, the New York-based advocacy group said in a report published on Monday.
The men were then deployed to Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, and the cities of Goma and Lubumbashi where they were given “new uniforms and weapons and integrated into the police, army, and units of the Republican Guard, the presidential security detail,” it said.
Kabila’s decision in December 2016 not to step down at the end of his mandate triggered protests throughout the copper- and cobalt-rich country. A crackdown by the security forces led to the death of at least 62 people and the arrest of hundreds more between Dec. 19 and Dec. 22, according to Human Rights Watch. The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office said in a report published in February that gunshot wounds on several victims showed the security forces used a “shoot-to-kill approach” to deal with the demonstrators.