•FDLR leaders tightly monitoring members to prevent mass desertion
GOMA - The Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) have strengthened their presence in the war-ravaged eastern Congo, following the pullout of the Rwandan army last month.
This was confirmed by Sylvie Van Den Wildenberg, the Public Information Officer of the United Nations Mission in the DRC (MONUC) in the eastern provincial town of Goma.
In an email to The New Times, Wildenberg revealed that MONUC was also working closely with the Congolese army as they plan to launch the next offensive against FDLR/Interahamnwe in DRC’s South Kivu Province.
“MONUC keeps being deployed in many of those sensitive areas which were targeted by the joint operations and where the military strongholds of FDLR were destroyed,” she pointed out.
FDLR is a French acronym for the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, an outfit largely composed of perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, which has also been accused of committing atrocities in DRC for the last 15 years.
“FARDC keeps consolidating its presence in those zones.Aall efforts are being made to prevent FDLR from reinstalling in their former strongholds,” Wildenberg said.
She also confirmed Rwandan Army Spokesman Maj. Jill Rutaremara’s earlier revelation that DRC was shifting attention to South Kivu Province where the rebels are reportedly fleeing.
“Besides, FARDC, MONUC are tightly coordinating for the next military pressure phase on remaining FDLR – South Kivu,” she underlined, noting that MONUC’s Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Reinstallation and Reintegration (DDRRR) programme’s efforts were being sustained despite a recent drop in MONUC’s figures of repatriated FDLR elements.
According to MONUC, a total of 348 FDLR “combatants and dependants” were repatriated in the last three phases ranging from February 15 to March 6.
This, according to officials, is a considerable drop from the 424 and 456 FDLR listed in the previous two phases, throughout the peak of Operation Umoja Wetu – between January 31 and February 14.
“There is a clear drop in the figures but this is a trend that we were expecting after the end of the joint operations,” Van Den Wildenberg acknowledged, noting that the “remaining FDLR and dependents are waiting to see what is going to happen next.”
She, however, stressed that MONUC currently has close to a hundred combatants and dependents in its camps waiting to be processed and had not been taken into account in their latest (Friday) statistics.
The UN official observes that only FDLR “hardliners and their followers” and some combatants and dependents who are kept hostage remain, since the former “don’t want to face justice.”
“Their chiefs are tightly watching them and preventing them from leaving,” she said explaining why it is more difficult for some candidates for DDRRR.