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.).
"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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.