MONUC chief military spokesman Lt. Col. Jean-Paul Dietrich yesterday dismissed concerns, over the ability of the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) to effectively retake “earlier positions.”
MONUC is the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Speaking to The New Times by phone, Dietrich noted that since Rwandan troops in the joint operation Umoja Wetu left, FDLR have tried to reoccupy some earlier positions but were “pushed back,” sometimes with the help of MONUC forces.
“In areas like Kashebere, Pinga and north of Kanyabayonga, there have been some clashes between FARDC (Congolese army) and FDLR but it’s locally limited to those areas,” Dietrich said, explaining that the FDLR comeback attempts were not extensive.
The FDLR are remnants of perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, and the just concluded operation was aimed at routing them out of the DRC from where they have been operating for the last 15 years.
He stressed that FDLR were only trying to return in “some areas” where there is no MONUC or FARDC presence, emphasising that even the rebel attacks were “mere skirmishes and not really military operations.”
“It is not a big issue since the government army can push them back. For example, in Pinga, MONUC also gave FARDC fire coverage to push them back,” he added, saying that the UN force – MONUC, has a “mobile operating base” in Pinga and other areas.
According to the MONUC publist, the UN force is conducting joint operations with FARDC and has deployed “at least ten mobile units” in several areas to ensure the protection of the population.
“We also help DRC forces to keep the gained positions during the recent joint operations with Rwanda.”
“At the beginning of the month, we signed a military cooperation agreement for the operations to be headed by FARDC with the support of MONUC,” Dietrich further revealed.
“The aim is to reassure the population of security, reduce the FDLR’s freedom of action and force them to undergo the DDRRR (Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Reinstallation and Reintegration) programme in addition to reinforcing state authority in areas formerly under their control.”
Col. Dietrich stated that the pact was, “in the military technical sense,” a FARDC operation supported by MONUC with the main duties or tasks carried out by FARDC.
“In certain cases we give them fire support.”
• DDRRR figures picking up
In spite of an earlier downward trend, following the pullout of the Rwandan contingent of Umoja Wetu, the numbers of returning FDLR combatants and dependents is now reportedly on the up.
“What I have today are last week’s figures and, about eighty of them were repatriated this last week,” Dietrich pointed out.
“This is quite an increase since you know that figures had gone down after operation Umoja Wetu, but figures are picking up once again,” he confirmed.
Recently, MONUC’s Public Information Officer in DRC’s eastern provincial town of Goma ,Sylvie Van Den Wildenberg, revealed that FDLR leaders were tightly monitoring members to prevent mass desertion.