The United Nations announced on Saturday that it would not support the DR Congo military offensive against FDLR militia on the grounds that the Kinshasa administration had assigned the operation to two generals the world body says have questionable human rights records.
Gen. Bruno Mandevu was recently appointed to head the FARDC operation against the FDLR and Gen. Fall Sikabwe named commander of the 34th military region, largely covering eastern DR Congo’s North Kivu Province where FDLR is concentrated.
The UN decision did not surprise many observers as an anonymous official had said as much earlier last week.
The latest development has put both DR Congo and the 20,000-strong UN Stabilisation Mission in DR Congo (Monunsco) on the spot, with some observers saying that the tricks are likely to be an inside job aimed at delaying or intentionally ignoring the need for an offensive against a militia group that has terrorised the eastern parts of the vast central African country for two decades.
The FDLR, a militia group composed of remnants responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, is accused of spreading genocide ideology in the region.
The group is accused of mass rape of women and children and other kinds of atrocities, including conscripting children into their ranks.
It is a month and a half past the deadline given for the FDLR to voluntarily disarm or face the wrath of a military offensive, a deadline that was set by a regional framework under the auspices of the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Despite Rwanda’s concerns over the continued glossing over the FDLR issue, international actors have been embroiled in rhetoric – several declarations have been made, UN resolutions and statements have been made but no action taken.
Speaking to The New Times, yesterday, the Ugandan High Commissioner to Rwanda, Richard Kabonero, said DR Congo has a primary obligation to flush out the FDLR and, where need be, they can seek for regional intervention.
“We have heard enough of these speeches and resolutions, we need action now. DR Congo, as a member of the ICGLR, should respect the Nairobi Pact that clearly states that no country should harbour a rebel or militia group,” said Kabonero, who is also the dean of diplomats accredited to Rwanda.
No harbouring of armed groups
The ICGLR Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region was signed in Nairobi in 2006 by all the 11 member states and came into force in 2008.
It serves as a legal framework and an agenda of the ICGLR with the aim of creating the conditions for security, stability and development between the member states.
Article 6 of the pact urges member states to abstain from sending or supporting armed opposition forces or armed groups or insurgents against a member state, or from tolerating the presence, on their territory, of armed groups or insurgents engaged in conflicts or involved in acts of violence or subversion against the government of another state.’
Kabonero said: “If the Kinshasa government is unable to act, they can always invite in neighbouring countries to help as has happened in different operations like ‘Umoja Wetu’, ‘Kimia I’ and ‘Kimia II’. Again, it doesn’t matter if Monusco is playing delaying tactics, DR Congo can go after FDLR by itself since they are primarily responsible of flushing out the militia.”
Kabonero went on to point at what he termed as the UN double standards saying that when it came to attacking the M23 rebel group, Monusco and the Congolese Army, FARDC, acted in full force, but when it came to FDLR, instead of applying the same, the players resorted to tricks and games of rhetoric.
‘UNSC not interested’
While addressing MPs, last week, the Minister of State in Charge of Cooperation, Amb. Eugene-Richard Gasana, who sat on the UN Security Council for two years as Rwanda’s representative, contextualised the Council’s activities with an expression of frustration, saying two-thirds of the Council’s work is focused on Africa yet there is little of action being taken.
Amb. Gasana said such inaction only help give FDLR a stronger resolve to continue abuses with impunity.
“Who has interest in seeing conflicts coming to an end in DR Congo? None of those at the Security Council! It’s so sad, it’s frustrating but that’s the fact. Security Council was created to prevent conflict but what it is doing is to manage conflicts. If they prevented conflicts, that would mean they would not have more work to do,” said Gasana, who is Rwanda’s Permanent Representative to the UN.
He alluded to some actors that may have interests in DR Congo conflicts since they continue to spend billions of dollars on Monusco, well aware of the fact that the heavily equipped force is not going to deliver on its mission.
“We are aware of the fact that these countries are business-minded and result-oriented but why would they continue spending billions of dollars every year on a force that is not delivering results? This is the explanation of FDLR and Monusco’s existence in DR Congo,” Amb. Gasana said.
His comments clearly indicated that there was little hope for the UN to go against FDLR, which leaves one alternative: regional bodies to work out a new plan without the UN and draw up offensive against FDLR.
Regional bloc challenged
To this end, the head of the European Union delegation in Rwanda, Michael Ryan, agrees, saying that regional actors have a primary goal to push for an offensive against the militia group.
“Everyone knew that an offensive against the FDLR would be harder than how it looked on paper but what needs to be done is mounting as much pressure on the Kinshasa government as possible to see something being done,” said Amb. Ryan told The New Times yesterday.
He also observed that there are “skilled and complicated games” games that are being played when it comes to the FDLR question.
On the regional level, countries have lately been mired in misunderstandings with some accusing certain members of the ICGLR and SADC of having a soft spot for the FDLR militia – a reason that could hinder regional collaboration against the militia group.
Among those on spot are Tanzania and South Africa, whose leaders have been cited as being sympathetic toward the militia.
The United Nations Force Intervention Brigade, which is under Monusco and has the combat mandate that would allow them to go after the FDLR, is composed of troops from Malawi, Tanzania and South Africa.
A recent report by the UN Group of Experts pointed an accusing figure at Tanzania, where certain meetings by top leaders of the FDLR are said to have taken place since 2013, while some money transfers to the outfit were traced to have been made from Tanzanian territory.
On the other hand, South Africa has for years harboured Rwandan dissidents with established links to FDLR, members of the so-called Rwanda National Congress, whose support and links to FDLR have been proven in courts of law, during trials of some of the members of the two outfits.
The difficulties created in delaying an offensive against the FDLR is the basis of what pundits say is an inside job within the UN since it has much to benefit in the existence of the militia group.