The United States Government issued sanctions on Thursday, targeting several entities including the Rwanda Defense Force’s Head of Operations and Training, Brig. Andrew Nyamvumba, as well as leaders from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the M23 Congolese rebel army.
As confirmed by statements from the U.S. Departments of State and Treasury, the six sanctioned figures have been identified as contributors to the heightened turmoil within the restive eastern DRC region.
The individuals cited in the sanction list encompass Brig. Andrew Nyamvumba and FDLR leaders Ruvugayimikore Protogene, Apollinaire Hakizimana, and Sebastian Uwimbabazi. The list also includes Bernard Byamungu, a prominent figure within the M23 militia group, and Salomon Tokolonga, associated with the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Alongside their alleged involvement in the conflict escalation, the individuals are also accused of being linked to human rights abuses and other related charges. The U.S. government’s statement notes, “Each of these individuals is contributing to instability in the eastern DRC and, in many cases, perpetrating human rights abuses, including sexual violence and violence against children.”
While the United States remains aligned with the civilian population and victims against those responsible for violence in the DRC, Rwanda and the DRC continue to trade accusations regarding their involvement with opposing militias. Rwanda has accused the DRC of supporting the FDLR, a militia group implicated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, for launching attacks within Rwanda. Conversely, the DRC asserts that Rwanda has been supplying arms to M23 rebels to disrupt stability in eastern Congo. Both nations deny the counter-allegations.
Tensions between Rwanda and the DRC have been escalating due to their backing of conflicting armed groups in the region. In response to the precarious situation along the Rwanda-DRC border, United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently engaged in a phone conversation with Rwandan President Paul Kagame. This communication followed Acting Deputy Secretary Victoria Nuland’s visit to Kinshasa for discussions with President Felix Tshisekedi.
Blinken emphasized the U.S.’s firm advocacy for a diplomatic resolution to the growing tensions between the two nations and urged both parties to take necessary actions for de-escalation.