The UN mission in the DRC– MONUC, has come out to clarify that the suspension of operations against militia of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) is not a viable strategy despite intensified recent criticism by rights activists who claim the operation has failed.
MONUC is supporting military operations (operation Kimia II) in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, against FDLR rebels, a group largely composed of perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, whose reprisal attacks have left thousands of civilians killed and displaced in the country’s volatile east.
A press release issued on Tuesday by the “Congo Advocacy Coalition”, said that the civilian death toll is unacceptable and says that disarming the FDLR should remain a top priority; but the DRC government needs to “act urgently to improve protection of civilians”.
The coalition of 84 international and local NGOs hopes to influence diplomats and UN officials as they meet the Great Lakes Contact Group in Washington this week.
MONUC partly agrees with the coalition’s recommendations, but disagrees with what it says are assumptions that are ill-founded.
“Suspending operations against the FDLR is not a viable strategy. It would restore the morale and capacity of the FDLR, remove the central focus needed to maintain an element of cohesion in the FARDC,” reads part of MONUC’s statement.
“Military operations against the FDLR are, in fact, weakening the group led by genocidaires, disrupting its command structures and prompting defections of the rank-and-file.”
According to MONUC, the operations which have lasted only nine months, are directed at adversaries embedded in the region for more than a decade, which the mission maintains will take time to neutralize them as a force.
MONUC says that its focus is to strengthen FARDC’s command, control and military justice.
“The raw calculation of deaths, rapes and civilians displaced is a false measure of the success or failure of military operations against the FDLR.”
However, MONUC agrees with the rights groups Recomendation that disarming the FDLR militia and improving the protection of civilians should be a priority for both the DRC government and MONUC.