KIGALI - Top Rwandan and Congolese defence officials meeting in Kigali since Monday, will exchange intelligence and information on common security threats as well as design concrete strategies and plans, particularly to deal with the FDLR rebels, with a vision of attaining a stable, peaceful and prosperous region.
The two countries’ defence ministers: Rwanda’s Gen. James Kabarebe and DRC’s Charles Mwando Nsimba, revealed that the meeting is expected to come up with concrete actions and strategic guidance on the way forward.
“The FDLR/FOCA and other armed groups operating in the DRC continue to pose a serious security threat to our two countries and the region. These negative forces are also busy forming alliances with other armed groups and criminal elements,” said Gen. Kabarebe.
“There is need therefore to effectively neutralize FDLR/FOCA, various allied armed groups and other criminal elements.”
The DRC Defence minister said the meeting, a follow up on previous sessions, will evaluate the security situation “on the level of our two countries” and noted that his country’s army (FARDC) continues with “actions of cleaning up and neutralizing” FDLR pockets in his country’s eastern region.
“We now have to leave work to our two defence chiefs here present, the Generals and the senior officers, to try to design a strategy which can eradicate these armed negative forces,” said Mwando.
The two countries’ army chiefs – DRC’s Lt. Gen. Didier Etumba Longila and Rwanda’s Lt. Gen. Charles Kayonga, are participating in the meeting scheduled to end today at Prime Holdings.
The two ministers dismissed the notion that the two countries could be planning another joint military operation to hunt the rebels, in eastern DRC.
Mwando said the remaining FDLR are simply small elements but who have a capacity for nuisance and hence the need for more strategies. Gen. Kabarebe, on the other hand, said that the rebels’ strength has been reduced by nearly 90 percent, and that if the two countries continue cooperating as they are doing, the rest will be totally eradicated.
In early 2009, the two countries’ armies mounted a first ever joint military offensive – ‘Operation Umoja Wetu’ – against the FDLR in eastern DRC. Since then, the two governments’ armies and security organs have continued to share intelligence and meet to review plans as the Congolese army carries out operations against aided by the UN force there.
The FDLR, are remnants of the ex-FAR and Interahamwe militia who spearheaded the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis, before fleeing into neighbouring DRC.
Ever since ‘Operation Umoja Wetu’, over 2,000 of its fighters and their dependants have been repatriated. Its political leaders are under arrest, in Europe, pending investigations into their alleged roles in Genocide and war crimes both in Rwanda and DRC.
While in Kigali in December 2008, Alexis Thambwe Mwamba, the DRC Foreign Minister, labelled the FDLR as a cancer bequeathed to his country by the international community.