MASISI - Twenty Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels were captured yesterday by General Laurent Nkunda’s troops during clashes in Masisi, Nkunda’s spokesman claimed last evening.
Rene Munyarugerero told The New Times from eastern DRC that the Rwandan rebels were captured while fighting alongside Congolese government forces in a battle with Nkunda forces in the areas of Mushaki, Ngugu and Sake.
Munyarugerero accused the Kinshasa of forming an alliance with the FDLR rebels.“We are fighting with government troops, FDRL and Mai-Mai militias,” he said.
He claimed that two FDLR officers are among top Rwandan rebels commanding Congolese government forces include Col. Smith Gihanga and Col. Mugabo.
“We have captured twenty FDLR rebels and they are in our dentition and eighteen government soldiers have surrendered to us,” he added.
According to Munyarugerero, there are more than 12,000 FDLR rebels fighting against Nkunda’s troops. He alleged that UN Mission in DRC (MONUC) accesses logistics through government forces. The logistic, he said, are supplied by Monuc.
By press time, Monuc officials could not be reached for comment. By press time heavy fighting was still going on in Sake, about 40km west of Goma. Congolese government troops were reportedly using helicopters to support their ground troops.
Nkunda told BBC last week that his troops were in possession war captives from FDLR.Meanwhile, Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Charles Murigande has said that Rwanda is ready to be the mediator between Democratic Republic of Congo and dissident General Laurent Nkunda.
He was speaking in Kinshasa, DRC after meeting his Congolese counterpart Mbusa Nyamwisi.
Addressing a press conference on Monday evening, Murigande said that it was also within the Rwandan government’s ‘unwavering commitment to peace’ that they accepted to facilitate a dialogue between the DRC government and General Nkunda last January.
Murigande said that the ex FAR/ Interahamwe (FDLR) were “the root causes of much of the insecurity and instability” in the region.
“The FDLR remain militarily and politically very active in DRC and continue to constitute a serious threat to all of us. Their campaign of ethnic cleansing in eastern DRC has created fertile ground for the emergence of complicating factors like the General Nkunda phenomenon,” he said. Early this year Kigali quietly brokered a deal between Kinshasa and Nkunda which later saw the mixing of some brigades from the government army with Nkunda’s fighters.
“It is my ardent hope that this visit will lead to a renewed commitment by the government of the DRC to track down, disarm, demobilise and repatriate the FDLR,” Murigande added.
“Unfortunately advocates of a military solution to General Nkunda’s phenomenon have wrecked the understandings that have been reached, and created the current heightened tensions in eastern DRC,” he explained.
“Rwanda remains ready to play a role in reviving dialogue between General Nkunda and the government of the DRC, if that is the wish of the belligerents. We think a peaceful solution to the crisis is possible, and indeed, preferable,” Murigande said.
Nyamwisi said at the press conference that the visit was part of a ‘bilateral relationship aimed at specific issues’, and was a ‘big event’ for the two countries and the sub region.
“The ex FAR Interahamwe constitute a problem, firstly for the Congolese, as they kill, rape and steal every day, but they are also a permanent menace for Rwanda. These meetings will allow us to find a response for the people and the government. We must prevent an escalation, because an escalation is possible,” Nyamwisi explained.
Meanwhile, reports from eastern Congo say that rebels have taken control of large parts of the Virunga National Park, home to rare mountain gorillas.
The move has raised fears for the fate of the gorillas. Only 700 remain - half of which are in Virunga. Meanwhile, Congolese army said on Monday it had killed at least 28 troops loyal to rebel Nkunda.
Some 170,000 people have fled the area this year, says the UN refugee agency.“If anything happens to the mountain gorillas now, there is nothing we can do,” said Norbert Mushenzi of the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN).“As of today, the sector is no longer under my control and we have been rendered powerless by these actions.”
Nine gorillas have been killed this year sparking outrage among conservationists.Gen Nkunda’s forces are believed to have moved into the park in pursuit of Rwandan Hutu rebels, FDLR, who have bases there. Murigande and his Congolese counterpart Mbusa Nyamwisi also asked the UN to intensify patrols in the east of the country where fighting is raging.
The UN has some 17,000 peacekeepers in DR Congo - the largest such force in the world and has sent an extra 200 troops to the region after the latest fighting.
The ministers have also agreed to form a commission to ensure that Congolese ethnic Tutsis who are refugees in Rwanda are repatriated.
Additional reporting by agencies