REGIONAL - The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has fulfilled its first obligation under the November 9 agreement with Rwanda by sharing a comprehensive action plan to disarm the ex-FAR/Interahamwe militia.
Foreign Minister Dr Charles Murigande said yesterday that Kinshasa sent the document on December 1, the deadline for sharing the plan with Kigali under the UN-brokered deal.
The joint approach is seen as a significant step towards eliminating the security threat posed by the roughly 10,000-strong ex-FAR/Interahamwe militia, which currently operate under the name Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR).
Presently based in Congolese eastern areas close to the Rwandan border, FDLR is largely composed of elements responsible for the 1994 Rwanda Genocide which claimed at least one million people.
However, Murigande who signed the pact with his Congolese counterpart, Antipas Mbusa Nyamwisi, in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, declined to divulge the contents of the document, saying it was not meant for the media.
“I am not supposed to share it with the press because it does not belong to me. It (the document) belongs to Congo,” he said. Asked if the content was different from an earlier disarmament plan which Kigali rejected before the peace agreement was signed on the grounds that it was wanting, the guardedly-speaking Murigande said: “There is a difference.”
And on whether the development signaled Kinshasa’s commitment to the Nairobi treaty, the minister observed: “The first activity which had a deadline was that (of sharing a plan of action with Rwanda) and they have done it.”
Murigande said that Rwanda will study and enrich the plan as per the historic agreement, which was also observed by the US and the EU. Under the highly praised accord, Kinshasa will also ‘identify and commit the necessary resources to implement the military components of the plan’.
The plan, according to the treaty, is supposed to include ‘reactivation and streamlining, in parallel with military pressure, existing efforts to sensitise ex-FAR/Interahamwe elements to disarm and repatriate to Rwanda.’
There has never been a resolute plan before to disarm the Rwandan rebels as previous ones insisted on voluntary disarmament.
The UN Mission in Congo (Monuc) is due to provide logistical support and any other form of assistance not outside its mandate to DRC to help implement the plan.
Meanwhile, President Paul Kagame and other regional leaders are tomorrow expected to meet with the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice t in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, to discuss continued security crisis in the Great Lakes region, among other issues.
Other leaders expected at the meeting are Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, DRC’s Joseph Kabila and Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza. Their respective Foreign ministers will also attend.
“I will be going for the Addis Ababa meeting but I will not be the one leading the Rwandan delegation,” Murigande said although he could not confirm whether President Kagame would attend the meeting.
He said that the meeting is at the level of Tripartite Plus Heads of State, adding that Rwanda expects much from it. The meeting is expected to discuss the presence of negative forces especially those in eastern DR Congo including FDLR, Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Burundi FNL Parpehutu and General Laurent Nkunda’s forces battling the Congolese army.
Reports indicate that Rice would discuss existing security mechanisms, including plans to disarm FDLR/Interahamwe militias. Dr Murigande said that the meeting will also discuss the possible ways of consolidating regional security and enhancing cooperation among Tripartite Plus member countries.
Washington DC says that Rice’s visit comes as a response to President Kabila’s appeal to US President George Bush to assist in pacifying eastern DRC. The two Presidents met in Washington last month. This is Rice third trip to sub-Saharan Africa since becoming secretary of state in 2005.
Rice, who cancelled a trip to Africa in July to focus on Iraq, will also discuss conflicts in Somalia and Sudan with African Union (AU) members, the United Nations and East African ministers. She is expected to travel to Brussels on Thursday from Africa to meet with her European counterparts and attend a ministerial meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).