North Kivu’s “Bami” or Traditional Chiefs (Les chefs coutumiers) requested government Friday to consider extending the ongoing joint military offensive against ex-Far/Interahamwe beyond its earlier set time limit of 15 days.
This comes after the very influential Chiefs held a two-day meeting to reflect on the situation of their Province at a time when Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) governments recently embarked on an unprecedented alliance to remove FDLR elements from eastern DRC.
“Knowing better the FDLR and Interahamwe and the areas they actually occupy, we doubt the operations will be completed in the present time limit of 15 days,” part of the Chiefs’ declaration reads.
“Consequently, we request the Congolese Government, at the evaluation of this operation, to extend the deadline in case the anticipated results are not attained,” they said.
This, they stressed, is in order to avoid possible reprisals by “these denounced forces (FDLR) against our population.”
FDLR or the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda is a group made up of remnants of people responsible for the 1994 Rwanda Genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda which claimed the lives of over one million people.
They later fled to neighboring DRC where they have been a constant security threat to both Rwanda and DRC, and particularly, illegally profiting from plundering the DRC’s mineral wealth, raping and killing innocent Congolese.
The Traditional Chiefs had earlier also vowed to do everything possible get rid of the FDLR.
Rwandan and DRC armies launched a joint military operation against them last month that has seen hundreds of militia surrender and return home (Rwanda) with their dependants.
After meeting February 2-3, the Bami in a statement also stressed that ever since the FDLR arrived in their country, in 1994, “our population has suffered from all ills: violence in all forms, abominable crimes and the paralysis of development activities.”
Apart from underlining the evils brought to their Province by the now widely condemned rebel group, the Bami also extolled operation Umoja Weto – the current Rwanda-DRC military offensive and, congratulated and supported their Head of State President Joseph Kabila for “cette decision salvatrice.”
Insisting that the DRC eastern region’s peace and stability was government’s prime priority, Kabila, during a news conference in Kinshasa end January noted that an evaluation would be done.
“After two weeks, we shall sit and look at how these operations have gone,” he told reporters, adding, “we shall know whether people are returning or how is the operation going.”
Kabila’s earlier statement and the Bami’s recent request point to the likelihood of operation Umoja Wetu’s initial 15-days’ deadline being extended after the evaluation.