Joint team to probe ‘Congo-FDLR links’

A joint verification team between Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will investigate allegations of collaboration between Congolese army and Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels, the two countries’ military forces have agreed.
Lt. Gen Kayembe.
Lt. Gen Kayembe.

A joint verification team between Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will investigate allegations of collaboration between Congolese army and Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels, the two countries’ military forces have agreed.

The decision was reached on Sunday, March 16, during a meeting between Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) Chief of General Staff, Gen. James Kabarebe and his Congolese counterpart, Lt. Gen. Dieudonne Kayembe, in Goma, DRC.

‘It was decided to activate the JVM (Joint Verification Mechanism) in relation to the allegations of Ex-FAR/Interahamwe (FDLR) collaboration with FARDC (Congolese army) units in Goma-Rutshuru axis,’ a communiqué signed by the two military chiefs states.

Rwanda has in the past accused the Congolese army of arming and providing other forms of logistical support to the FDLR, and that their collaboration sometimes involves joint military operations.

Those allegations grew even stronger last year after Congolese rebel leader Gen. Laurent Nkunda’s troops captured several FDLR rebels fighting alongside FARDC, and revelation by FDLR leader Ignace Murwanashyaka that the Rwandan militias’ presence in Congo was a culmination of an understanding between them and Kinshasa.

Organised under the frameworks of the Tripartite Plus, a November 9 Nairobi Communiqué (between Rwanda and DRC) and the UN Security Council’s Resolution of March 13, 2008 calling for immediate unconditional disarmament and repatriation of FDLR rebels, the weekend meeting also resolved that both nations’ armies increase security collaboration along the nations’ common border line.

They also resolved that the military intelligence services of both forces should constantly ‘exchange and harmonise intelligence on the ex-FAR/Interahamwe (FDLR) in order to enhance operations.’

The military chiefs further agreed on a measure to help closely monitor activities of their respective commanders stationed in areas along the countries’ common border.

‘Meetings of the two CGSs (Chiefs of General Staff) should continue in North and South Kivu and all DRC or Rwanda border provinces with the involvement of local commanders in order that they fully understand their commanders’ intent. In line with previous Tripartite Resolutions, local border commanders should be encouraged to meet whenever required,’ the statement adds.

Gen. Kabarebe was accompanied to the meeting by the head of RDF Intelligence (G2), Brig. Gen. Jacques Musemakweli and CGS’s Security Advisor, Brig. Gen. Jerome Ngendahimana, himself a former FDLR rebel officer.

The meeting which was facilitated by the Acting Force Commander of the UN Mission in Congo (Monuc), Maj. Gen. Bikram Singh, came in the wake of last Thursday’s UN Security Council resolution which demanded that “all members of the FDLR, ex-FAR/Interahamwe, and other Rwandan armed groups operating in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo immediately lay down their arms and present themselves without any further delay or preconditions to Congolese authorities and MONUC for their disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration.”

The Council, which also said would soon extend travel and financial sanctions to more FDLR rebels, urged for the implementation of the Nairobi Communiqué between Rwanda and DRC under which Kinshasa undertook to disarm FDLR rebels beginning this month.

Asked a comment on the UN resolution, Gen. Kabarebe said yesterday: “We are waiting to see them act although it has come long overdue.”

Military sources say the DRC, which has lately been engaged in a sensitization campaign to encourage FDLR rebels to return home, is working with Monuc to  mobilise personnel and logistics for the disarmament of the rebel outfit estimated to be 10,000-strong.

Monuc, the largest single UN peacekeeping mission with 17,000 personnel, committed itself to help the Congolese army implement its part of the bargain under the Nairobi Communiqué, which was brokered by the UN, and witnessed by the US, EU and AU.

FDLR, largely composed of negative elements connected to the 1994 Genocide, was blacklisted as a terrorist group by four Great Lakes countries – Rwanda, DRC, Burundi and Uganda – under a diplomatic framework commonly known as Tripartite Plus, and the US government. 

The Special Presidential Envoy to the Great Lakes Region, Ambassador Richard Sezibera, promised last week that Rwanda would warmly welcome FDLR rebels, guaranteeing them security and dignified reintegration within the community.
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