DR Congo: Wanted strongman’s crimes supported by army, says HRW

Guidon Shimiray Mwissa forces continue to commit crimes against civilians with help of the army, new Human Rights Watch report says.

Guidon claims he doesn't receive support from the army and denies committing rights abuses [Screegrab/Al Jazeera]

Forces loyal to a wanted Congolese rebel leader are continuing to commit killings, rapes, extortion and forced recruitment of children with support from the country’s army, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said in a new report.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) issued an arrest warrant for Guidon Shimiray Mwissa in June 2019 for participating in an insurrection, recruiting child soldiers and committing the crime against humanity of rape in the country’s eastern region.

Guidon, 40, is an ethnic Nyanga and former government soldier from Walikale territory who defected in 2007 to become a rebel fighter.

Shortly thereafter, he joined the Nduma Defense of Congo (NDC) under Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka. In 2014, Guidon broke away from Sheka and established the NDC-R.

“A 2019 arrest warrant has not stopped Guidon from committing horrific abuses against civilians in areas he controls,” Thomas Fessy, HRW’s senior Congo researcher said.

“His backers within the Congolese army should be investigated and prosecuted for using an abusive group as a proxy force”.

Guidon, who remains at large, leads the NDC-R rebel group whose fighters are notorious for torturing and executing civilians.

NDC-R controlled a larger area than any other armed group in DRC until the group split three months ago.

Some of the group’s fighters have surrendered to the government.

Guidon claims he does not receive any support from the army and denies committing rights abuses.

“The NDC-R does not have any collaboration with the Congolese army. When we are in confrontation with other armed groups, we find heavy weapons, ammunition, and Congolese military uniforms.” he told a local TV station.

The HRW report added that since 2014, NDC-R forces have killed dozens of men, women, and children, many of them hacked to death with machetes or shot.

During the attacks, fighters looted and burned houses, and tortured men and women with knives and machetes, according to witnesses and victims interviewed by HRW.

A 14-year-old girl from Masisi territory described being raped by an NDC-R fighter while returning from the fields in early 2020.

“He took me and pushed me on the ground. He said: ‘If you refuse, I will shoot you in the stomach’.”

In January 2018, the UN Security Council added Guidon to the UN sanctions list, freezing his assets and imposing a worldwide travel ban.

A Congolese army spokesman in North Kivu told HRW that government troops were “actively seeking to arrest Guidon”.

Source: Al Jazeera