The United Nations has admitted that eastern DR Congo-based Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia is abusing a six-month timeframe to disarm and called for faster military action to uproot the Rwandan rebels.
In a Tuesday release, the UN Security Council said they were concerned about “reports by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for DR Congo that the FDLR has interpreted this six-month timeframe as a call to stall previously scheduled demobilisations.”
It was two weeks ago when Heads of State and Government of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) reiterated a six-month ultimatum since July 2, for the FDLR to voluntarily surrender.
Regional leaders set a deadline to evaluate the process for October before considering the beginning of military operations to wipe out the militia. But members of the UN Security Council expressed concerns that the FDLR may have interpreted the time limit as a chance to halt their previously scheduled demobilisations.
Reports by Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for DR Congo and Head of the UN’s stabilisation mission in the DR Congo (Monusco), indicated this month that only nearly 200 members out of the FDLR’s estimated 1,500 combatants had disarmed.
The report didn’t impress members of the UN Security Council as it prompted them to call for a “credible military action” to swiftly and conclusively disarm and demobilise members of the rebel outfit.
Official figures indicate that from 2002, over 11,000 FDLR combatants were successfully disarmed, demobilised, repatriated and reintegrated into society back home in Rwanda.
For the remaining FDLR members, who are mainly remnants of militia that committed the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Rwanda has expressed reservation on trusting that they are willing to voluntarily surrender in six months.
Against Rwanda’s wish, the deadline extension was confirmed in resolutions made by the second mini-summit of Heads of State and Government of the ICGLR in Luanda, Angola.
“Rwanda considers the deadline for action against FDLR long passed and warns against the delaying tactics and diversions,” Foreign Affairs minister Louise Mushikiwabo said after attending the summit where she represented President Paul Kagame.
Kinshasa put to task
The UNSC used the Tuesday meeting to call on Kinshasa government, in coordination with Monusco, to “actively pursue military action against those leaders and members of the FDLR who do not engage in the demobilisation process or who continue to carry out human rights abuses.”
The mission has a mandate to neutralise all armed groups in DR Congo in line with UN resolutions 2098(2013) and 2147(2014), and support the demobilisation process of the rebels.
But many analysts, including political scientist Jean de la Croix Nkurayija, a professor at the University of Rwanda, say neither Monusco nor the DR Congo government have shown political will to fight the FDLR.
“It would be utopia to ask Monusco or DR Congo forces (FARDC) to be the only ones to disarm the FDLR; it’s just going to involve a lot of delays because they haven’t shown political will,” Nkurayija said.
The academic recommended that other regional forces be involved in fighting the FDLR if a credible military action is to be mounted against the militia.
“Both Monusco and FARDC seem to have interests in delaying the process of military action. Any credible military action would require involving military forces from regional countries in Africa,” he said.
Noting that the FDLR remains a group made up of perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and continues to recruit and train combatants to commit “ethnically based” killings in the DRC and Rwanda, the UNSC described disarming the militia as a “top priority”.
Members of the Council said that the swift neutralisation of the FDLR would bring stability to the DRC and the Great Lakes region.
The disarmament, experts say, would end FDLR’s violations of human rights that include recruitment of child soldiers, raping women, and killing innocent civilians among other attacks.
Aloys Mahwa, the executive director of the Interdisciplinary Genocide Studies Centre in Kigali, says the FDLR should face the same treatment as M23, a now defunct rebel group which used to be made up of anti-Kinshasa government elements based in eastern DR Congo.
M23 was fought off and defeated by the Congolese army with the help of Monusco’s Force Intervention Brigade, a 3000-strong unit with an aggressive mandate against all the rebels operating in DR Congo.
“Why can’t FDLR get the same treatment as M23?” Mahwa asked, urging that leaders need to provide a definitive roadmap to end the FDLR threat.