Sever FDLR economic lifelines - rights group

Cutting off its economic lifelines will paralyse the violent activities of FDLR in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a new report by Enough Project, a human rights organisation says.
FDLR fighters in DRC. The militia, according to the new report, continues to regroup in total disregard of the deadline for its surrender. (Net photo)
FDLR fighters in DRC. The militia, according to the new report, continues to regroup in total disregard of the deadline for its surrender. (Net photo)

Cutting off its economic lifelines will paralyse the violent activities of FDLR in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a new report by Enough Project, a human rights organisation says.

FDLR is a militia group mainly composed of perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, and have over the years committed atrocities both in DRC and Rwanda.

“The FDLR continues to generate revenue mainly by trading gold through North Kivu and Uganda and by illegally producing and trading charcoal from Virunga National Park, a trade worth an estimated $32 million per year,” the report, released yesterday, reads in part.

“The group is using part of that revenue to purchase ammunition and arms from Congolese army officers, with whom it continues to collaborate and share intelligence.”

Faced with a deadline set by the UN Security Council and regional governments to unconditionary disarm and surrender or face military action by January 2, 2015, the militia, entrenched in the east of the DRC, is reportedly regrouping, and mobilising political support.

Based on six months of field research, the report outlines seven policy steps for policymakers to take to help end the FDLR threat.

Empower rangers

One of the steps is for UN, US and the African Union to press the UN peacekeeping mission (Monusco) and the Congolese police to support the Virunga Park rangers of the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN) in interdicting the FDLR’s supply routes for charcoal from Virunga National Park to Goma.

“Monusco should provide peacekeepers to patrol the park with the Virunga park rangers to help curtail charcoal production in the park,” adds the report.

UN officials recently reiterated that military action is inevitable if the militia does not surrender by January 2 next year.

The Enough Project researchers found out from the different interviewees around Virunga Park that the FDLR continues to recruit foot soldiers. 

The FDLR has also struck military alliances with Congolese armed groups, including Maï-Maï Lafontaine, it added.

The FDLR is, reportedly, gathering political momentum having created new alliances with four Rwandan political parties.

These alliances are, as noted, boosting morale within the FDLR, though some of the enthusiasm has dissipated recently in the wake of strong disarmament messages from regional governments and the international community.

The FDLR’s current strategy, as indicated, is consistent with its longtime pattern of responding to military pressure – promising to disarm and reiterating its political aspirations for recognition as a Rwandan opposition group.

However, the report says, the FDLR then uses any reprieve to regroup by building military alliances and increasing economic activity and recruitment.

‘Seven tactics’

Apart from cutting the charcoal economic lifeline of the genocidal militia, the six other non-military tactics suggested by the Enough team include: regional diplomacy; accountability for Congolese army officers; and working to apprehend FDLR leader Sylvestre Mudacumura and encourage public indictments.

With respect to regional diplomacy, the report says, the UN Special Envoy to DR Congo, Said Djinnit, should continue to proactively repair relations between Rwanda and South Africa and between Rwanda and Tanzania.

The aim should be to forge regional consensus for both targeted military operations and urgently-needed non-military measures to neutralise the FDLR.

On accountability for Congolese army officers, the rights body advises the international community and ICGLR chairperson Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos, to escalate pressure on the Congolese government to investigate, suspend, and indict Congolese military officers who are suspected of collaborating with the FDLR.

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