All eyes were on the UN Stabilisation Mission in the DR Congo (Monusco) as the deadline for the FDLR militia to disarm or face military action expired yesterday January 2.
Last year, the head of Monusco, Martin Kobler, told the UN Security Council that after January 2, military action against the FDLR – the group largely blamed for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi – would be inevitable.
But there was no sign of imminent attack on the militia, yesterday; instead Kobler on his official Twitter handle on Friday sounded similar diplomatic appeal.
“All FDLR have to stop the fight and return to peaceful life: we encourage them to surrender to MONUSCO and FARDC camps in the Kivus,” he said.
Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda’s deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, said he did not believe the UN force would act, noting that failure to deliver on a specific UN mandate of ensuring that FDLR militia disarm or face military action was more proof that Monusco was ineffective.
“I do not think they will move (against the militia). Some United Nations Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) contingents do not have the will to neutralise the FDLR, as per resolution 2098 and decisions of ICGLR/SADC,” Nduhungirehe told The New Times yesterday.
The United Nations Force Intervention Brigade authorised by the Security Council on March 28, 2013 through Resolution 2098, is a military formation that is part of Monusco.
Asked what he thought would happen following the reluctance by leading FIB contingents to fight the militia, Nduhungirehe said, “I believe that any contingent that is not willing to implement the mandate given by the Security Council in resolution 2098 should be replaced”.
Eastern DR Congo observers have previously noted that Tanzanian and South African troops which lead the 3,000-strong special UN Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) – the first UN peacekeeping unit mandated to neutralise armed groups there – under Monusco – cannot be trusted to root out the militia.
Their analysis is backed by the fact that Tanzania lists the FDLR as a freedom fighting organisation on its government website, and senior South African envoys have allegedly lobbied in negotiations for delays in counter-FDLR operations.
In 2013, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, urged Kigali to open political negotiations with the FDLR and, mid last year, his foreign minister, Bernard Membe, referred to the FDLR as “freedom fighters.”
Genocide scholar Tom Ndahiro refers to the UN Force Intervention Brigade as “a fib” when it comes to fighting the FDLR.
Ndahiro said Monusco’s inaction “will vindicate what Kigali has been saying” and especially “expose Tanzania and South Africa.”
“Monusco should now be disbanded because they cannot fulfill their mission.”
The discussion even attracted debate on social network.
“Now we wait to see if Monusco threats of military action were cheap talk,” Michael P. Broache, a PhD candidate at the Department of Political Science, Columbia University, tweeted.
On Tuesday, Russell Feingold, US special envoy for the Great Lakes region of Africa and the DR Congo, urged the US’ partners in the eastern DR Congo to make good on their promise to launch attacks on FDLR as the latter’s recent surrender of only 150 combatants was “an insufficient” step.
Feingold stated that the group has clearly demonstrated over the past six months that a voluntary surrender process will not work- instead, military action must be undertaken to pressure the FDLR to lay down its arms.
“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,” he said.
Feingold said that their estimates stood at 1,400 fighters before the surrender last week of 150 former combatants, meaning that over 1,200 fighters were still holed in up in Eastern DR Congo.
Two days before the deadline, on Wednesday, Kobler noted that FDLR ex-combatants disarmed in eastern DR Congo, the previous weekend, but “without commanders and leadership it is not enough.”
Kobler was also clear that as FDLR politicians did not honour their commitment to disarm, “the UN will not endorse an extension of the deadline beyond 2/1/15.”
Throughout last year, the FDLR offered to disarm, but did the opposite behind the scenes as revealed by a six-month report of the Enough Project whose field research uncovered that the militia were actually regrouping, trading gold and charcoal for weapons, and mobilising political support.
Meanwhile, even though the US politician said his country supported a two pronged approach against the FDLR – demobilsation and reintegration for those willing to surrender, and military operation for those who fail to surrender, Feingold did not clarify on whether US forces would play any direct role in neutralising the militia.
Security officials in the region are also tight lipped on the next course of action but analysts have pointed to the recently set up the Eastern Africa Standby Force (EASF) as a suitable game changer.
Late last year, 10 regional countries: Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda – members of the EASF – hastened to establish a 5,000 strong fighting force which is now ready.
Majority of the now armed and ready for deployment EASF force come from Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya, countries that are seemingly devoted on uprooting negative forces including the FDLR, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group opposed to the Ugandan government, and the al-Shabaab, a jihadist group based in Somalia which pledges allegiance to the militant Islamist organisation al-Qaeda.Follow https://twitter.com/KarhangaJames