US push for military action against FDLR

The US government has termed the recent surrender of 150 FDLR combatants as "an insufficient" step and called for the planned military action against the militia group beginning January 2, 2015.

The US government has termed the recent surrender of 150 FDLR combatants as “an insufficient” step and called for the planned military action against the militia group beginning January 2, 2015.

Last Sunday, an estimated 150 former combatants of the militia reportedly surrendered with 67 weapons in DR Congo’s North Kivu province.

The US maintained that the surrender does not meet the terms of the ultimatum given by International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).

The militia group was given six months to surrender voluntarily or face military action following a meeting in July this year by the leaders of member states of ICGLR and SADC with the decision gaining backing from the United Nations Security Council, Africa Union and the international community.

Speaking during a telephone interview yesterday, US special envoy to the Great Lakes region Senator Russ Fiengold, said the region and the world could not continue to wait for FDLR to voluntarily surrender.

“The group has clearly demonstrated over the past six months that a purely voluntarily surrender process will not work. Instead, military action must be undertaken to pressure the FDLR to lay down its arms,” he said.

He said any delays in military operation after January 2 will serve to strengthen the group’s atrocities.

Senator Russ Fiengold. 

“Any delay in military operation by the DRC military and Monusco after January 2 will play into the FDLR’s hands and only serve to enable the group to continue to commit human rights abuses and prey on the civilian population in the Eastern DRC,” the envoy said.

He pointed out that rather than voluntarily surrender, the militia group had used the six months window to continuously commit atrocities, recruit and champion their illegitimate political agenda.

The US diplomat’s suggestion that the FDLR were only playing games reflects Rwanda’s longstanding position that the blacklisted negative force was not about to lay down arms voluntarily and needed to be confronted militarily.

Feingold commended ICGLR, SADC and the United Nations Security Council for rejecting calls for political dialogue between the group and the Rwandan government arguing that FDLR is an illegitimate armed group that does not represent the interest of the public.

He said his country supports a two pronged approach in dealing with FDLR; demobilsation and reintegration for those who lay down their weapons, and military operation for those who fail to surrender.

“DRC and Monusco must now fulfill their commitment to neutralise the FDLR,” he said, adding that it was not a sole country’s responsibility but a regional and international obligation.

There have been concerns that some of the countries contributing troops to Force Intervention Brigade, an offensive wing of Monusco, were reluctant to take on the FDLR and were thought to sympathise with the group composed of elements responsible for the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994.

Tanzania, South Africa and Malawi are the troop contributors.

On this, Feingold said the US had received reassurance from the key stakeholder countries who said they were keen to follow up on their commitments with actions.

Scholars and analysts have also expressed scepticism on the militia’s disarmament by Monusco, saying the UN agency had existed alongside the group for long watching its metamorphosis without attempting to neutralise it.

In a recent interview with The New Times, renowned genocide scholar Tom Ndahiro, said Monusco had not shown any signs in the past of being part of a solution, if anything; they have contributed to the rise of the problem.

Numerous efforts by The New Times to reach Monusco for a comment on FDLR’s oncoming disarmament were futile with sources informing us that top officials at the Kigali laison office were out of the country.