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Regional ministers call for FDLR disarmament

Foreign affairs ministers and representatives from 11 countries that constitute the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) have called for “renewed focus on strong and decisive action against the FDLR who remain a threat to Rwanda as well as to Rwandophone and other communities in Eastern DRC”.

Foreign affairs ministers and representatives from 11 countries that constitute the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) have called for “renewed focus on strong and decisive action against the FDLR who remain a threat to Rwanda as well as to Rwandophone and other communities in Eastern DRC”.

Based in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, FDLR or the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), is a militia group blamed for the death of more than a million Rwandans during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. The group, blacklisted by regional countries and the US as a terrorist outfit, crossed into DRC at the fall of the genocidal regime in Kigali 18 years ago and is accused of carrying on with its extremist ideology and atrocities there – particularly against Congolese Tutsi communities.

The meeting, held yesterday at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, also called for “re-enforced surveillance on the border between Rwanda and the DRC, supervised by a mutually-agreed third-party”.

Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, who attended the ICGLR meeting, welcomed the recommendations.

“There is a clear need to rebuild trust amidst the swirling allegations over the past several weeks. Rwanda is committed to working with partners in the region to reset the course towards peace and stability,” she told The New Times.

Mushikiwabo added: “Our national interests are best served by harmonious relations with all our neighbours which, in turn, delivers benefits in the form of increased trade, improved economic integration and greater security for citizens throughout the Great Lakes region.”

The meeting was called in the wake of escalation of fighting in eastern DRC between government troops and mutinous soldiers, who deserted the army in April, blaming Kinshasa of breaching a 2009 peace deal that provided for integration of the former CNDP rebels into the army, among other agreed actions.

The fighting has since threatened to dampen three years of renewed bilateral ties between Rwanda and DRC, with the latter accusing Kigali of backing the M23 rebels. Rwanda has denied the allegations and instead pointed at Kinshasa’s failure to disarm the FDLR rebels.

Officials in Kigali have also expressed concerns that the Congolese army was fighting alongside FDLR in the current conflict, during which the rebels easily seized several strategic towns in the North Kivu province, close to the Ugandan border.

And the xenophobic attacks on Rwandans and Kinyarwanda speaking Congolese communities in DRC – in the wake of the rebellion – did not help matters, with returning Rwandans talking of targeted attacks by mobs allied to government.

By yesterday, UN Stabilising Mission   (MONUSCO) troops had taken positions to shore up the Congolese forces (FARDC) to dispel any potential rebel assault on Goma, the capital of North Kivu. 

The skirmishes have since driven 200,000 people away from their homes, with tens of thousands crossing into Rwanda and Uganda.

Meanwhile, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon yesterday called for “continued dialogue” between DRC and Rwanda to help resolve the crisis. Both sides have in the recent past engaged in a series of bilateral diplomatic and military talks to help avert a potential all-out war in the Congo, but with little success.

Rwanda helped broker the March 23, 2009 deal many had believed presented a golden opportunity for lasting peace in the troubled Kivus.

The M23 rebels, commanded by one Col. Sultani Makengo, have called for peace talks with Kinshasa – but the latter appeared unwilling to negotiate with the group.

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