By Frank Kamuntu
The Democratic Republic of the Congo on Tuesday made another formal referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to ensure the court will focus on the alleged systematic pillaging of its natural resources in the country’s east by the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) and the M23 rebel group.
“The government of the DRC remains deeply concerned about the suffering of the populations in the part of its territory affected by the acts referred to in this case,” the Congolese Justice Ministry said in a statement.
The referral’s goal would be to investigate and prosecute any person involved in human rights violations between 2022 and 2023, it added.
The Tutsi-led M23 rebel group launched a new offensive in eastern DRC in March 2022, seizing towns and villages in the area that borders Uganda. The fighting forced more than one million people to flee.
Kinshasa has accused neighbouring Rwanda of backing the M23 but Kigali continues to deny any involvement.
In 2022, a United Nations experts’ report found “direct intervention” by Rwandan forces inside DR Congo. The European Union has also urged Rwanda to “stop supporting the M23″ and urged Kinshasa to “take all measures necessary to protect the civilian population in its territory”.
There is already a continuing ICC investigation into eastern DRC – since 2004 – and it is unclear if the new referral would shift the court’s focus.
To date, the ICC has convicted three different Congolese militia leaders – one of war crimes and the others of war crimes and crimes against humanity – for their roles in atrocities committed in the eastern DRC.
ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan is expected to visit Kinshasa and Congolese provinces affected by rebel groups from May 28 to May 31.