UN Sanctions Bernard Byamungu M23’s Chief Spy

The United Nations Security Council announced international sanctions against Bernard Maheshe Byamungu the deputy commander of operations and intelligence of the M23 rebel movement in DRC.

Byamungu is accused of distracting the operations of UN stabilisation mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (monusco).

“Byamungu is one of those who obstruct the participation of Monusco in the operations of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration,” according to UN Security council.

The M23 spy chief is also accused of participating in promoting and supporting the activities of the armed group.

Byamungu described by UN as right-hand man to M23 rebel leader Gen. Sultani Makenga is accused of perpetrating serious crimes in part of the North Kivu province.

In January 2023, Byamungu was promoted to Brigadier General of the Congolese Revolutionary Army, the armed wing of the M23. He was then appointed chief of staff of Sultani Makenga and has since validated the planning of all operations carried out by the M23 in the DRC.

Belonging to the political or military leadership of Congolese militias, including those which receive support from outside the DRC, the UN affirms that Bernard Maheshe Byamungu is one of those who obstruct the participation of Monusco fighters in the operations of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.

A Brief of Bernard Maheshe Byamungu

In April 2012, Bernard Maheshe Byamungu, then commander of the ninth sector of the FARDC in Uvira in South Kivu and who had defected a few months earlier to join the M23, fell into the net of FARDC elements in the Itombwe mountains, after having spent more than 72 hours on the run.

Accused of participation in an insurrectional movement and sentenced to double the penalty of his dismissal from the Congolese Armed Forces, Bernard Maheshe Byamungu, also a former AFDL rebel, was arrested and detained at the Kinshasa Penitentiary and Reeducation Center (CPRK) the same year, before being released in 2019 by presidential pardon from the Head of State, Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi.

Awaiting his reintegration into the FARDC and to everyone’s surprise, Bernard Maheshe Byamungu exfiltrated from the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, in September 2022 to once again join the M23 terrorist movement, while any exit from the city had been prohibited.

He is currently the subject of an arrest warrant issued by the Congolese authorities.

Byamungu sanctioned by EU and USA

At the end of last July, Brig. Gen Byamungu was also included in the European Union sanctions list, which accused him of being responsible for serious violations of human rights.

“Due to his leadership functions within the M23|ARC, Bernard Byamungu therefore contributes, by planning, directing or committing, to acts constituting serious violations of human rights or attacks on these rights in the DRC. He is also responsible for supporting the armed conflict, instability and insecurity in the DRC,” the European Union said in its communication.

After the European Union, the United States Treasury Department announced on August 24 of the same year, a series of targeted sanctions against six people accused of contributing to the worsening of the conflict and instability in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Among the individuals on the American blacklist was the former colonel of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC), Bernard Maheshe Byamungu, 49, currently deputy commander of operations and intelligence of the M23.

Sanctions imposed by the UN result in a travel ban for sanctioned individuals, thereby limiting their mobility and ability to act freely and also lead to the freezing of these individuals’ assets, which can cause a major blow to their means of financing and deprive them of the resources necessary for their activities.

According to UN, these measures aim to limit the influence and capabilities of those sanctioned, while sending a strong message that human rights violations will not be tolerated.

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