BRUSSELS - A new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report reveals that the rebel FDLR is one of the militias that are still getting support from elements within the Congolese armed forces.
The report released on Monday in Brussels says that the FDLR, the Mai Mai Mongol and the Coalition of Congolese Patriotic Resistance (PARECO) continue to receive support from soldiers in the Congolese army, something that puts into question the commitment of the Congolese authorities to the peace process in Eastern Congo.
On January 23, 2008, after weeks of talks, the Congolese government signed a peace agreement in Goma, North Kivu, with 22 armed groups. The agreement according to Human Rights Watch, committed all parties to an immediate ceasefire, disengagement of forces from frontline positions, and to abide by international human rights law.
HRW faults the government in Congo and international donors of providing limited funds to the Amani Program that was set up following the talks to promote peace efforts in Eastern Congo.
The report also cites FDLR as one of the militias that continue to kill and rape civilians in Eastern Congo’s North Kivu province.
It says that most of the worst human rights abuses were committed in and around the Bukombo administrative area in western Rutshuru.
HRW continues saying that some 150 civilians were killed between February and May 2008.
“PARECO and Mai Mai Mongol combatants, many of whom are untrained and poorly equipped, held the area from December to March, supported by FDLR combatants,” says the report.
HRW quotes dozens of people it interviewed saying that the fighters repeatedly raided villages for cattle, goats and other goods, raping women and girls, and killing civilians who opposed their activities or whom they accused of being collaborators of their enemies.
Commenting on the report, President Paul Kagame’s special envoy to the Great Lakes region, Dr. Richard Sezibera said that this has been going on for a long time.
“This is nothing new, we have said this before and have even communicated it to the Congolese army leadership” said Sezibera.
He added that what was surprising is the fact that this is the first time HRW is coming out to admit that the FDLR has been raping and killing civilians in Eastern Congo.