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US Senators Demand Update on Sanctions Against M23 Rebels

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The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress


A group of US Senators have written to Antony Blinken and Janet Yallen, respectively Secretary of State at the Department of State and Secretary at the United States Department of the Treasury demanding for an update on application of US Sanctions on the M23 rebels.

According to the correspondence dated October 20, these senators said from the end of 2021 the M23 have increasingly launched “sophisticated and deadly” attacks against the Congolese government, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Republic Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and civilians.

These senators base their concern with reports from human rights organizations that indicate the M23 has a steady supply of modern arms and ammunition that allows its members to regularly strike targets on ranges and to execute precision fire against aircraft, believing that the M23 has direct state-sponsored support.

“Given the years and degree of human suffering in eastern Congo, we request an update on the ongoing enforcement of US sanctions against the M23, as required by Public Law 112-239,” according to this correspondence.

“Since the beginning of this year, more than 700,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, leaving many civilians dead. Human rights groups have tracked cases of torture, rape and imprisoned civilians forced to engage in cannibalism along with their murdered fellow inmates,” the senators lament.

The M23, a conventional army

The senators also note that these “horrible” reports come as the M23 displays offensive capabilities more in line with a conventional army than a disorganized insurgent group.

According to them, their capacities enabled them to take control of the positions held by the Congolese supported by MONUSCO and to hold territory.

“Indeed, the head of the MONUSCO force has warned that it could find itself facing a threat that exceeds its current capabilities,” they recalled.

Given the serious threat to regional security and the confirmed human rights violations, these senators believe that the United States must continue to hold accountable those who support these horrific acts.

As a reminder, the US Congress included a requirement in the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act nearly a decade ago imposing sanctions on those who provide material and financial support to M23.

“This remains in effect, and we respectfully request an update on individuals and foreign government officials whom your ministries believe provide support to M23, which can be done by classified annex if needed,” they said before concluding.

“We also ask you to detail your current efforts to identify and further sanction individuals and officials engaged in supporting M23.”

The United States had placed the leader of the March 23 Movement (M23), Sultani Makenga, on its blacklist of natural or legal persons sanctioned for their participation in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The US Treasury had indicated that the sanctions concerned the seizure of the property and wealth of the latter located in the United States of America, and the prohibition of any transaction between Makenga and America.