MONUC’s chief military spokesman Lt. Col. Jean-Paul Dietrich on Thursday declined to back-up recent claims on BBC by one of their officers, Capt. Karl Fuller, that the joint Rwanda-DRC military operations earlier this year had failed to neutralise the FDLR rebels.
Speaking over the phone from eastern DRC, Dietrich, however not entirely willing to comment much on Fuller’s comments, insisted that the latter was speaking on his own – “not on our (MONUC) behalf.”
“He made his own assessment but, this is not the position of MONUC. It was a personal opinion expressed to the BBC, which does not reflect the position of MONUC,” Dietrich said.
The Tuesday BBC report;“Hutu rebel ‘hit list’ in DR Congo”, also says that the rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) responsible for the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, have drawn up a “hit list” of those who helped the joint military operation against them.
Fuller, a South African national, also alleged that the joint military operations had only succeeded in scattering the rebels.
“Within the time frame, some goals were achieved. The military structure of FDLR was destroyed and they are not in position to carry out (large) military operations. They have also lost most of their economic resource – mines,” Dietrich said.
“Basically, the FDLR have been weakened. Their capacity to organise operations is on a small scale. They are losing ground.”
Dietrich, however, also acknowledged that the situation in eastern DRC remains tense given the persistent FDLR attacks on the population.
“Especially in Lubero territory, the humanitarian situation is very dire. They are looting, killing and in some cases, destroying houses. Fifteen days ago they destroyed about one hundred houses but, we are working to stop that.”
He added that MONUC and the Congolese army (FARDC) are conducting small-scale joint operations, mostly patrols “based on information” to cordon and search for the FDLR and, forcefully or voluntarily force them to surrender.
“In this context, already, thousands have surrendered. Every day, there are combatants who surrender.”
He noted that FARDC-MONUC operations against the rebels continued, and that in South Kivu as well, joint command structures have been set up and FARDC troops deployed awaiting some operations, he said, within some “foreseeable” future.
According to Dietrich, the total number of the UN force in DRC, is “approximately” 16,500 and 90 percent of it is deployed in the volatile east, stretching from up north east in Ituri to southwards in South Kivu province.
The rest are in Katanga region and further west in Kinshasa.