The UK government has described the DR Congo-based Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) as “an armed group espousing genocide and should be treated as such.”
In a statement sent to The New Times yesterday, the UK reiterated earlier calls for the militia, largely made up of the elements that committed the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, to lay down arms unconditionally or face military action.
It urges regional countries under the auspices of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), as well as the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in the Congo (Monusco) to stick to the timeframe for FDLR’s disarmament – voluntarily or otherwise.
“Rwanda’s constitution is rightly clear – there is no room for groups espousing a genocide ideology. The region, including Rwanda, is playing a crucial leadership role. The choice they have presented the FDLR is clear: disarm voluntarily now or face military action. We fully support this,” the statement, signed by the Acting British High Commissioner to Rwanda, Dr Luke Beaumont, reads in part.
On July 2, ICGLR and SADC leaders, during a meeting in Luanda, Angola, gave a six-month ultimatum to the FDLR to disarm or face military action, and a summit to review the progress on the ground – halfway through the timeframe – is slated this month.
The decision to give the FDLR the disarmament window followed the militia group’s public promise to voluntarily demobilise, which saw them send a few fighters and weapons to assembly points, amid growing pressure from the international community.
Kigali reluctantly agreed to the disarmament timeframe, with Foreign Affairs minister Louise Mushikiwabo, on August 14, warning of FDLR’s “delaying tactics and diversions.”
It later emerged that the tens of fighters that had surrendered were largely elderly while the guns were faulty.
And, last Friday, the United Nations Security Council, in a statement, “noted with deep concern that since that date (July 2) no further voluntary surrenders of members of the FDLR have happened and the FDLR have failed to deliver on their public promise to voluntarily demobilise.”
The Security Council also “recalled that leaders and members of the FDLR were among the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda...and that the FDLR is a group under UN sanctions, operating in DR Congo, and which has continued to promote and commit ethnically based and other killings in Rwanda and in DR Congo.”
It also “rejected any call for political dialogue with the FDLR and reaffirmed the need to arrest and bring to justice those responsible for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
The UK has now outlined three steps that must be taken to end FDLR threat to peace and security in the region:
“Firstly, if the FDLR’s stated desire to disarm is to mean anything, they must immediately stop blocking the disarmament process on the ground.
“Secondly, we must ensure the SADC and ICGLR deadlines are met.
“Thirdly, military action must indeed be the inevitable consequence if FDLR do not disarm voluntarily by the SADC deadline. The UN Security Council, on which both Rwanda and the UK sit, has given a clear and unequivocal mandate to Monusco to take action against armed groups. It is important that all parties in the region and Monusco work together to discharge their responsibilities.”
The statement indicates that “the FDLR continues to pose a threat to the region, not least to Rwanda’s vision of a prosperous and secure future.”
The UK is committed to doing all it can to ensure these steps are taken and no one in this region lives in fear from armed groups, it says.
“I hope the Rwandan government will do all it can to ensure these steps are taken when it attends the regional review of the voluntary disarmament process in a few weeks time. It can be sure of the UK government’s support on this,” Dr Beaumont added in yesterday’s statement.
The FDLR moved across the border to the DR Congo as the genocidal regime in Kigali fell in 1994 and more than 10,000 combatants have voluntarily returned home and reintegrated in communities over the last ten years.
The United Nations estimates put the FDLR current capacity at about 1500 fighters but the Rwandan government has previously suggested that the numbers could be higher.
The group’s supreme military commander Sylvestre Mudacumura was in 2012 indicted by the International Criminal Court on nine counts including rape, murder, and mutilation, while UN has sanctioned several of the militia’s political and military leaders.
Last year, the FDLR made incursions on Rwanda, killing several civilians, and have been linked to a spate of fatal grenade attacks around the country, especially in the capital Kigali, in recent years.Follow https://twitter.com/JMunyaneza