US backs offensive on FDLR

The US Special Envoy to the Great Lakes, Russ Feingold, has welcomed military action against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), saying it would be a right move for longstanding peace in the region. 
President Kagame with Feingold after their meeting at Village Urugwiro yesterday. Courtesy.
President Kagame with Feingold after their meeting at Village Urugwiro yesterday. Courtesy.

The US Special Envoy to the Great Lakes, Russ Feingold, has welcomed military action against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), saying it would be a right move for longstanding peace in the region. 

Feingold made the remarks yesterday in a media briefing shortly after meeting President Paul Kagame at Village Urugwiro in Kigali.

 

He said the decision by DR Congo government and the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in DR Congo (Monusco) to go after the genocidal militia was one of the key subjects that he and President Kagame discussed, adding that elimination of the FDLR threat would also help normalise diplomatic relations between Rwanda and DR Congo.

 

“The President and I talked about the hopes we have for dialogue and the problems we have in eastern DR Congo. We talked about the need to take action against FDLR and we are pleased that there was an announcement on Monday by Kinshasa government and Monusco that a more serious action is being taken against FDLR militarily,” Feingold said.

 

He added: “The situation between Rwanda and DRC has improved with regards to the diplomatic side. The President (Kagame) indicated that there is communication going on between the two countries and we need to follow up on the aspects of the Nairobi declarations (between Congolese warring parties) and more to do with the DR Congo.”

Reports over the weekend indicated that the Congolese army, backed by Monusco, attacked FDLR positions in North Kivu, eastern DR Congo. 

Mandate to expire

However, there are no reports of causalities or any indication that the alleged attack was part of an offensive against the militia, which crossed into the Congo after committing the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, killing more than a million people.

The mandate of Monusco expires at the end of this month, but its possible renewal could be on agenda for tomorrow’s UN Security Council meeting. The force has been in the troubled country for more than a decade.

The US envoy also lauded Rwanda’s policy of welcoming and reintegrating former FDLR militants who return home voluntarily, saying that offering hope for those willing to defect from the militia group is an important aspect in ending the violence in eastern DR congo.

“I visited the (Congolese) refugee camps and the transition centre here in Rwanda, as well as the camp for reintegrating former FDLR combatants. In all three cases it appeared to me that they were well run and I could see some of the great challenges that Rwandans and people from Eastern Congo faced,” Feingold said.

The envoy added: “Many of them (refugees) would probably like to return to their original homes in the DR Congo but they do not feel comfortable about their safety and how they would be treated if they went back, but I noticed a lot of compliments for the Rwandan government’s contribution to these facilities. The government and its partners want to make these facilities as good as they can be for the people to live in them.”

Senator Feingold and President Kagame also discussed the possible repatriation of M23 rebels who defected to Rwanda last year.

The rebels were defeated following joint attacks by Congolese army and a more offensive Monusco brigade.

“There are M23 people in this country who, if the process is properly followed, would be repatriated into DR Congo,” he said.

Monusco has previously been severely criticised for its soft stance against FDLR, with some of its members even accused of selling arms to the militia, which is also blamed for sustained human rights violations against Congolese civilians.

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