Foreign Affairs and Cooperation minister Louise Mushikiwabo has said she was surprised to learn through the media that the upcoming regional summit on the FDLR in the Angolan capital Luanda was to discuss the way forward regarding the militia’s refusal to disarm during a grace period of six months that passed on January 2.
“I was very surprised to read in the media that the Summit is supposed to discuss the way forward for FDLR; for Rwanda, it’s enough with the talking!” she told The New Times.
The minister said, “If concerned countries and Monusco (UN peacekeeping mission in DR Congo) are not ready to take military action, then at least they should not waste scarce time and money in endless meetings, repeating the same thing.”
In a statement, released over the weekend, South African President Jacob Zuma, the chairperson of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) defence organ, said the leaders of SADC and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) would meet on January 15-16 in Luanda to decide on the appropriate action.
The six-month ultimatum was given on July 2, 2014 during one of a series of ICGLR-SADC Heads of State meetings on the security situation in Eastern DR Congo, with a special focus on the FDLR militia, and the regional leaders had resolved that if the combatants failed to disarm voluntarily within that period, then they would automatically face military action.
And Mushikiwabo reckons that since that grace period followed a series of other ultimatums also ignored by the militia as well as countless meetings in the different capitals over the same issue, the only plausible next course of action is use of force to disarm the militants who include those responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda in which at least one million people died.
“There is no other way forward to decide than military action agreed more than a year ago, by the UN, the African Union, and the same SADC-ICGLR joint Summit,” she said.
Zuma’s statement also baffled keen observers.
Sheikh Omar Khalfan, a lecturer of politics and international relations at the College of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Rwanda, wondered what the meeting agenda would be.
“Is the summit about voting on whether to implement or to annul previous resolutions, I am interested in seeing what will really be discussed there,” he told The New Times yesterday. “The plan was clear; lay down arms in six months or be disarmed.”
Meanwhile, diplomats continued to mount pressure on Kinshasa and Monusco with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon making a telephone call to President Joseph Kabila on Wednesday and urging him to join in the campaign against FDLR.
International envoys to the Great Lakes region are among those pushing for decisive action against the FDLR, while the United Kingdom too has backed efforts to eliminate the negative force.
In a post on his Twitter handle, yesterday, the UK High Commissioner to Rwanda, William Gelling, said his government backed Ban’s “call for decisive action against the FDLR.”
Although Monusco has in recent days spoken about its intentions to heed to growing calls to waste no more time but henceforth proceed to take on and disarm the militia, its response to FDLR’s failure to meet the terms of the ultimatum thus far has largely been stepping up sensitisation campaigns in different languages, including in Kinyarwanda, via social media platforms urging the militants to disarm and return home peacefully.
There are lingering doubts about the possibility of Monusco and DR Congo army, FARDC, finally crushing FDLR, concerns that have become even more pronounced in the wake of a leaked UN Group of Experts report which documents continued collaboration between FARDC and FDLR at the local level, including ammunition flows from the Congolese army to the militia.
According to Khalfan, DR Congo, as the country that hosts the FDLR, needs to “urgently understand that it cannot forever remain the safe haven for all sorts of illegal armed groups, including the FDLR, and take concrete steps in the right direction”.
But the varsity don also questions the commitment of the international and regional players, particularly the UN and both SADC and ICGLR, which he said have failed to implement their own resolutions on the militia – one after another.
“There is a huge gulf between what’s publically said and what’s actually done,” he said.
“Why should Martin Kobler (Head of Monusco) say they are waiting for the decision of the Luanda summit, what more decisions are there to be made?”
Figures from the Rwanda’s commission charged with overseeing the repatriation, rehabilitation and reintegration of former combatants indicate that more than 10,000 ex-FDLR combatants returned to the country voluntarily over the last decade.
Senior political and military leaders of the blacklisted terrorist organisation are wanted for genocide and crimes against humanity both in Rwanda in 1994 and later in DR Congo since the genocide machinery fled across the border two decades ago.