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UN, US Pressure Mounts Against FDLR Rebels in Eastern DRC

By Nico Colombant
12 June 2008

The United States is re-emphasizing a reward program of up to $5 million per person to get information about 13 Rwandan genocide suspects still believed to be in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This comes as the U.N. peacekeeping mission says it is trying to be more forceful in pushing the Rwandan fighters out of Congo. VOA's Nico Colombant has more from our regional bureau in Dakar.

U.S. ambassador to the DRC, William Garvelink gave VOA details of the reward program.

"The 13 names are individuals who were indicted by the tribunal [for] Rwanda so these 13 people have been charged by the tribunal with war crimes or genocide," he said.

The court based in Tanzania is trying those believed to be the most responsible for the 1994 killing spree in Rwanda, mostly by ethnic-Hutu extremists.

U.S. officials have said posters, pamphlets and a 24-hour telephone hotline are being used to push the reward program, as the Tanzania court may wrap up this year.

Ambassador Garvelink says he does not believe the push interferes with U.N. and Congolese efforts to disarm, demobilize and repatriate former Rwandan fighters.

These continue to perpetrate violence, including a recent attack on a displaced people's camp in North Kivu, which the United Nations says killed four civilians.

"This program complements the other efforts," he added. "We are trying to use all our resources to either bring to justice or relocate individuals who are destabilizing the area. These folks who have been charged by the criminal court always pose a bit of a difficulty between Rwanda and the Congo."

During Congo's 1998-2003 war, Rwandan ethnic Hutu fighters fought alongside Congo's military against Rwandan-backed rebels who controlled parts of mineral rich eastern DRC.

Congo's Defense Minister Chikez Diemu says it is time they go home.

He says Congo had over 5 million dead from its war, and that it is enough.

Diemu says Congo's government is cooperating fully with international efforts, and that three fighters were recently turned over by Congolese forces to the court in Tanzania.

But a laying-down-of-weapons ceremony attended by a breakaway faction of former Interahamwe militia in the Congolese city of Kisangani last month was described as a sham by the main Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda.

The head of the U.N peacekeeping mission Alan Doss said the process had to start somewhere. During a recent visit by a U.N. Security Council delegation, he appealed for new military equipment like unmanned drones, saying his forces were under-equipped to confront the Rwandan fighters.

He said the Rwandan fighters presence is preventing peace in the Congo. Different militia groups are also active in the region, some of them still allied to the Rwandans, while ethnic-Tutsi general Laurent Nkunda leads an ongoing insurgency against those groups.

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