The United States government has sanctioned three leaders of militant movements for “contributing to ongoing instability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).”
These include William Yakutumba, the founder, military commander, and political leader of the Mai-Mai Yakutumba militia and the National Coalition of the People for the Sovereignty of Congo (CNPSC).
The U.S. said Yakutumba’s coalition of several armed groups in South Kivu province, DRC, attacked civilians and humanitarian actors.
“Through his role as leader of the Mai-Mai Yakutumba militia and CNPSC, Yakutumba has been involved in the commission of rape, mass rape, and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence,” said the U.S. on Friday night.
Observers say the sanctions against leaders of rag-tag rebel movements operating in remote areas in DRC may not have the intended impact.
Violent clashes between M23 rebels, who are reportedly backed by Rwanda, and Congolese government forces have displaced more than 450,000 people in the past few months in Rutshuru and Masisi territories in North Kivu province.
People arriving in the town of Sake, located near the provincial capital Goma, spoke of having to make harrowing choices, with men risking death to feed starving children and women risking rape to collect firewood.
Willy Ngoma (Ngoma), the military spokesperson for the March 23 Movement (M23), an armed group that has perpetrated human rights abuses, including killings, attacks, and sexual violence against civilians, was also sanctioned.
The U.S. said on November 29, 2022, M23 conducted a series of killings in the town of Kisheshe in North Kivu province, DRC, where M23 combatants systematically looted civilian property and raped several women.
Also sanctioned is Michel Rukunda (Alias Makanika), a DRC national and commander and overall military leader of the armed group Twirwaneho.
Under Rukunda’s leadership, the U.S. says Twirwaneho has recruited children as young as 12 years of age to guard military positions, carry out patrols, gather intelligence, participate in combat operations, act as personal escorts, or work as domestic aids in military camps.
Twirwaneho, according to the U.S., has conducted attacks against civilians, including at an internally displaced person camp, and has looted and burned several houses and a medical facility.
Yakutumba and Rukunda are being designated pursuant to E.O. 13413 as amended by E.O. 13671, for being leaders of entities, including any armed group, that have, or whose members are responsible for or complicit in, or have engaged in, directly or indirectly, the targeting of women, children, or any civilians through the commission of acts of violence (including killing, maiming, torture, or rape or other sexual violence), abduction, forced displacement, or attacks on schools, hospitals, religious sites, or locations where civilians are seeking refuge, or through conduct that would constitute serious abuse or violation of human rights or a violation of international humanitarian law, in or in relation to the DRC.