RUGARI – The rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) must leave Congo. This is the message taken to the population by determined North Kivu politicians Monday.
In Rugari, a village north of Kibumba town, and over 30 kilometers from the provincial town of Goma, three legislators, accompanied by members of the joint Rwanda-DRC military offensive’s high command, firmly appealed to high-school students and their teachers to help “end the suffering caused by the FDLR.”
“You very well know how much you have suffered and, you indeed know much about the FDLR. They fought their wars and lost and have now brought them here, to you,” said former North Kivu Governor Eugène Serufuli, leader of the group conducting a region-wide mobilization campaign, sensitizing the population to help get rid of ex-Far/Interahamwe elements.
“Why can’t the FDLR give us peace now? They are our kinfolk but now they are causing us problems,” he underlined, insisting; “we want those brothers to lay down their arms, then come and we escort them, peacefully, back to Rwanda.”
Most locals in eastern DRC, it is believed, know the rebels and their hide-outs and, often come into contact with them. The regional campaign is thus aimed at exploiting this opportunity – to reach out to the rebels and convince them to voluntarily disarm.
“We want you to understand and help deliver this message. Those who say they don’t want to go back home should disarm and live with us in peace. This is our country!” Serufuli told the audience in a big but cramped room.
Accompanying him were other regional legislators – Robert Seringa and Sebujangwe Kerivita.
Seringa pointed out that many FDLR have been previously repatriated, and are living freely in Rwanda, allaying allegations and fears that on return home, FDLR elements face reprisals.
“The FDLR should not come here and tell you lies that they will be killed on return. There is peace in Rwanda and we are ready to escort them. The children of Congo have agreed to build peace and that too is the case with Rwanda,” he said.
“We are becoming victims of their presence, victims of their activities. Many are living here because they did wrong things back home and others because they have businesses here but we are obliged to tell them the truth,” Seringa told the gathering.
“Our country is a sovereign State and we can even seek the support of our neighbors, like Rwanda, to rout them out,” he emphatically warned.
“Please tell them, send the message. They must leave us in peace!”
Kerivita, who was once ambushed by the FDLR “in Gakomero”, but luckily escaped, stressed his colleagues’ point of view.
“Tell them (FDLR) that we have been patient enough. Time has come for anyone permitted to hold a gun be a National Army soldier, no one else!” he emphasized.
At the end of the stop-over at the school, Serufuli once more stressed the importance of “delivering the message,” the return of internally displaced people and, starting working rather than depending on aid agencies’ hand-outs.
“We should now start working. Let the aid agencies, if they want to help, give us hoes and seeds. We Congolese are not beggars!” he stated.
The team soon after headed further north to Rutshuru where they conferred with the military on the ground strategies, especially how they can further assist non-militarily and, they also talked to 13 FDLR elements who recently surrendered.