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Dec-03-2012 11:40printcomments

We Are Only As Good As Our Last Decision

“Senate votes to sanction those helping M23 in Eastern Congo”

Protest against Rwanda

(Washington, D.C.) - The United States Senate has finally decided to listen to the UN Group of Experts report on Rwanda’s involvement in the DRC and is planning this week to vote on sanctioning any group supporting the M23 under the Defense Authorization Bill.

Christopher Coons

In a press release dated 11/30/12 Senator Christopher Coons of Delaware published the following statement regarding an amendment imposing an asset freeze and visa ban on those supporting the M23 added to Defense Authorization bill: “The United States Senate unanimously passed an amendment Thursday night imposing sanctions on those providing financial, material, or technological support to the M23 rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Amendment 3199 to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.).” It further states that:

“M23 has demonstrated an unconscionable disregard for human life and Congo's territorial integrity and seems determined to sink central Africa in another deadly, devastating war that could set the region back a generation,” Senator Coons said. “The actions of M23 rebels, as well as those who aid and abet the M23, are deplorable and must be stopped immediately. These sanctions are designed to stop the illicit and dangerous support the M23 is receiving from those seeking to destabilize the region. I applaud Senator Durbin for taking the lead on this amendment, and am pleased the Senate spoke with one voice in unanimously supporting its passage.” Senator Coons is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs. While the press release does not specifically name any person or group it does specify Rwanda in the following statement:

“M23 is a rebel group comprised largely of defectors from the Congolese army. The group seized the eastern city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo last week and, despite reports of a planned withdrawal yesterday, still occupies the important trading city. According to a report by the U.N. Group of Experts, the group is reported to be receiving significant assistance from neighboring Rwanda.”

This reporter contacted Senator Coon’s office and conversed with Ian Koski, Communications Director for U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), and he had the following responses:

General James Kabarebe

JF: Rwanda is mentioned in the press release, does that mean sanctions will be placed on President Paul Kagame as well as General James Kabarebe? It is clear in the GoE report to the UN that these two men are fully backing and directing the M23. If these two men are not on the list for possible sanctions then who else is?

IK: The amendment doesn't specify the individuals to be sanctioned -- that's for the State Department and other federal agencies to determine.

The release is specific in its mentioning of Rwanda, noting only that the U.N. Group of Experts has cited it as a source of assistance.

It is also important to note that the sanctions have been passed as an amendment to the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which has not yet been passed by the full Senate. After it has passed (probably this coming week), the Senate's NDAA will go into conference with the House's NDAA. The resulting conference report must then pass again in both chambers and be signed by President Obama. Only then will the sanctions become available to the Administration to enforce.

This reporter pressed further for specific names regarding who would possibly be sanctioned and Mr. Koski responded in the following way:

Kagame photo by Jenn Fierberg

JF: Is President Kagame the intended target of these sanctions?

IK: It is targeted at any who are and any who might provide assistance to M23.

JF: Is there a chance that no sanctions will be imposed on anyone? Could the whole thing be vetoed by President Obama?

IK: Yes, that's a possibility. The White House issued a statement of administration principle last week saying it opposed the version of the bill passed by the House. My sense, on background, is that the president would sign the senate version because of changes we made, but I don't speak for them. It is also possible that the sanctions amendment comes out during conference with the House. But that, too, seems unlikely.

Even though Mr. Koski would not or could not get specific on names he was clear that the report compiled by the Group of Experts was the basis for the vote this coming week and that report focuses much of its evidence on Rwanda’s involvement in aiding and arming the M23 rebel group in Eastern Congo. The Press Release from Senator Coon’s office further states: “The civil war in eastern Congo is the most lethal conflict since the Second World War and its barbarism defies description,” Senator Durbin said. “Last week, a well-armed rebel forces occupied the city of Goma and have set their sights on Kinshasa, Congo’s capital. The rebels, known for brutal violence and led by known war criminals, have the potential to destabilize the entire nation. As the violence continues to escalate, it is clear that the rebels are benefitting from strategic and material support from outside forces. This amendment freezes the assets and implements a visa ban for any person providing such troubling support. Our goal is to hasten an end to the violence by starving the rebels of their key lines of support.” Senator Durbin is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs.

The specifics of what sanctions the Senate and House will be voting on are stated, in part, as such:

In the Senate of the United States-112th Congress, 2d Session

S. 3254

To authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2013 for military activities of the Department of Defense, for military construction, and for defense activities of the Department of Energy, to prescribe military personnel strengths for such fiscal year and for other purposes. Sec. 1246 Imposition of Sanction with Respect to Support for the Rebel Group Known as M23:

a. Blocking of assets
b. Visa Ban

While these sanctions will most likely not have the intended effect on any military personnel they could have direct effect on those whom the GoE report names as direct leaders of the M23 rebel group including President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and General James Kabarebe of Rwanda who has been noted as giving direct order to the M23.

The press release concludes with the following statements: Eastern Congo has been plagued by civil war for over the better part of two decades. Fighting for control of the region’s vast mineral resources, the fighting has killed millions and subjected innocent civilians to unspeakable levels of violence, include rape as a weapon of war. Known as the “Rape Capital of the World,” an estimated 1,000 women assaulted every day – nearly 12 percent of all women in Congo. The conflict is also marred by the use of child soldiers and the bloody and brutal violence inflicted on civilian populations.

Last week, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution calling on M23 to disarm, disband, and return control of Goma to the Congolese government, and urging nations to impose sanctions on M23 and its supporters. On Monday, the African Union said it was considering deploying an international force from Tanzania to oversee the withdrawal of M23.

The Democratic Republic of Congo was founded in 2003 at the conclusion of Second Congo War — a five-year multi-lateral conflict involving eight nations and two-dozen militia groups. The war and lingering conflicts are reported to have claimed the lives of 5.4 million people. It was the deadliest war in modern African history.


Jennifer Fierberg is a social worker in the US working on peace and justice issues in Africa with an emphasis on the crisis in Rwanda and throughout the central region of Africa. Her articles have been published on many humanitarian sites that are also focused on changing the world through social, political and personal action.

Jennifer has extensive background working with victims of trauma and domestic violence, justice matters as well as individual and family therapy. Passionate and focused on bringing the many humanitarian issues that plague the African Continent to the awareness of the developed world in order to incite change. She is a correspondent, Assistant Editor, and Volunteer Coordinator for NGO News Africa through the volunteer project of the UN. Jennifer was also the media co-coordinator and senior funding executive for The Africa Global Village. You can write to Jennifer at Jennifer comes to with a great deal of experience and passion for working to stop human right violation in Africa.



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