The past three weeks of U.N. Security Council meetings have culminated in the sanctioning of the three men accused of being part of the M23, a rebel group accused of recruiting child soldiers to commit massacres and rapes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Two of the men were hit with sanctions on Friday, the other one got the penalties on November 12.
The three men, Innocent Kaina, Baudouin Ngaruye and Sultani Makenga are part of the leadership of the M23 rebel group, the United Nations says, and are currently entrenched in the far eastern portion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an area not only known for its immense beauty but also immense store of raw materials, such as copper, diamonds, and gold.
According to Human Rights Watch, the three are responsible for recruiting child soldiers, some as young as eight years old. They are also known for leading massacres, rapes, and attacking civilians, the advocacy agency said.
The sanctions on the three men include freezing assets and travel bans.
Makenga is responsible for ordering rapes and sexual assaults against women and children in an effort to, “consolidate control,” the U.N. said. He headed campaigns of forced recruitment of children that led to “killing, maiming, and injuring scores of children,” the U.N. said.
He was also involved in the Kiwandja Massacre in November 2008, where 67 civilians, mostly young men, were murdered in north eastern Congo, the United Nations says.
Ngaruye “has committed killing, maiming and abductions, often targeting women” and “he gave the orders to kill all men in Shalio village of Walikale,” the United Nations says.
Kaina is accused of a series of abuses, mostly in 2004.
The sanctions come as a new cycle of unrest continues in eastern DR Congo. The area has been embroiled in violence since 1994, when Hutu forces crossed the border from Rwanda fearing reprisals after the genocide in that country.
The M23 group was named for a peace deal of March 23, 2009, which it accuses the government of violating. The soldiers, mostly Tutsis, became part of the national army through that accord.
However, they broke away from the Congolese army in April, complaining they weren’t being promoted as promised, and because of a lack of pay and poor conditions.