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DRC-RWANDA: Kinshasa unable to disarm FDLR rebels - analysts

KINSHASA, 17 March 2008 (IRIN) - The deadline for Rwandan Hutu fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to voluntarily disarm has expired without guns being handed in, because Kinshasa lacks the capacity to resolve the problem, analysts said.

The 15 January ultimatum was issued to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) by the DRC government. It was based on an accord reached in November 2007 in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, between Rwanda and the Kinshasa government.

According to the DRC Defence Minister, Chikez Diemu, the period 1 January to 15 March should have been sufficient to persuade the FDLR fighters to lay down their arms and be repatriated if they so wished.

"After the deadline, we will be obliged to disarm them by force," the minister said.

Alan Doss, special representative of the UN Secretary-General and head of the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC), however, said the awareness-raising period should be extended. "We agreed that awareness-raising among the FDLR should be pursued even if the initial initiatives failed to produce the expected results," he said.

That agreement was apparently reached at the recent meeting of representatives of the parties concerned in Brussels as part of the follow-up procedures after the Nairobi joint communiqué.

"The 15 March [deadline] was unrealistic given the complexity of the issues and the [preoccupation with] the Goma conference, which ended up with the agreement between Congolese armed groups and the government on a ceasefire," said David Munier, the International Crisis Group’s head of research for central Africa.

"It is preferable, for the moment, that the work of awareness-raising be pursued and that all paths of dialogue be exhausted, including those aimed at a dialogue being entered into by the Rwandan government and Rwandan refugees in Congo who are not being sought on charges of involvement in the 1994 genocide," he added.

Philippe Biyoya, professor of political sciences at the Protestant University of Kinshasa, told IRIN: "The Congolese government does not have the means to disarm, by itself, either by persuasion or force, the Rwandan Hutu combatants; it would not be able to unless it had sufficient UN support."

The DRC government, he added, was well aware of this, which is why it had asked the Rwandan authorities to put together the necessary conditions to free up political space for the Hutus and accept a prior inter-Congolese dialogue.

A UN Security Council resolution of 13 March, which called on the combatants to disarm "without further delay and without prior conditions demanded of the Congolese authorities and MONUC", noted that the UN would provide the necessary support to the DRC to achieve FDLR disarmament.

The Security Council also called on the FDLR to immediately stop recruiting and using children, to free all the children associated with them and stop gender-based violence.


Lt-Col Jean-Paul Dietrich, MONUC’s military spokesman, said the force would be ready to support the DRC army.

"The military option is the last resort, but it is necessary to continue with diplomacy and prepare military intervention which could happen any day but not as soon as tomorrow," Dietrich added.

MONUC, he added, had prepared sites for welcoming combatants who disarm, but these were relatively few.

Doss explained: "The Security Council envisages the adoption of sanctions against FDLR leaders who refuse to cooperate in implementing the Nairobi communiqué."

The FDLR, estimated to number more than 6,000, of whom 30 percent are Congolese, continues to operate on DRC soil. The group consists of a variety of armed Hutu groups, many of them remnants of the militias that carried out Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

The fighters have been involved in sporadic clashes with armed groups in eastern DRC, despite the cessation of hostilities agreement signed in January by the Congolese combatants.

The DRC and Rwanda agree they will not support rebels who seek to undermine the authority of either state, military commanders of both countries said.

"We are committed not to support the FDLR, and Rwanda, for its part, has pledged not to support Laurent Nkunda's group, the CNDP [Congrès National pour la Défense du peuple]," said general Dieudonne Kayembe, the chief general of DRC's armed forces.

He was speaking after meeting his Rwandan counterpart James Kaberebe in Goma over the weekend.

Kaberebe denied that Rwanda has supported the CNDP, saying allegations to the contrary were just rumours. "Dialogue can resolve any problems that may arise in relation to the FDLR," he said.


Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Human Rights, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs



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This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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