PARLIAMENT - Members of Parliament yesterday expressed dissatisfaction with the deadline set for the Joint Task Force (JTF) operations in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and asked for the mandate to be prolonged for the exercise to be successfully completed.
This came up in their meeting with the Minister of Defence, Gen Marcel Gatsinzi, who was updating them on the current situation of the “Umoja Wetu” operation.
MPs expressed great concern about the time boundaries being a possible obstacle to the total success of the joint action.
“The forests in Congo are very thick and huge, you can’t rout all FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) out of these jungles in just 15 days,” said Aimable Nibishaka, an MP.
The operation that is being carried out by Rwanda Defence Forces and the DRC is aimed at disarming and repatriating FDLR/Interahamwe members. It started on January 20 and is expected to be completed at the end of this month.
“If members of the JTF leave Congo without having completed the mission, it will provide another chance to FDLR members to reorganize themselves and become strong again in the future,” said Abbas Mukama, commenting on the deadline.
During the meeting, Gen Gatsinzi told the lawmakers that the entire operation is being coordinated and led by the Congolese military.
“All we did was provide military personnel but it is being commanded by the Congolese as per the agreement of the two Heads of State (Presidents Kagame and Joseph Kabila),” Gatsinzi told the parliamentarians.
The MPs’ request to have this JTF mandate extended comes just a couple of days after the North Kivu traditional chiefs asked for the same extension, stressing the fact that the time given was very short for the operations to be successful.
Gatsinzi said both sides (Rwanda and DRC) are all happy with the progress being made by the joint efforts to deal with Ex-FAR and Interahamwe, grouped under the umbrella of FDLR.
He added that the DRC is the first beneficiary of the ongoing operation, so they should make sure the set objectives are fully met.
“We are working for the sustainable peace in the region, not just part of it,” said Gatsinzi.
The FDLR are not only responsible for the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis that left over a million people dead, but are also behind the humanitarian catastrophe that has rocked the eastern DRC for the last 15 years.
Members of Parliament also urged the population of the two countries to support the operations and turn away from those who mislead them, including some international NGOs which continue to spread lies that Rwanda may have invaded Congo, while the international community clearly failed to end the Congo conflict.
They also asked the Rwandan refugees in the Congo forests to voluntarily come back to their country, and Congolese IDPs to rejoin their respective homes.
MPs on the other hand appreciated the facts and figures presented to them as the outcome of the operations.
The figures show that since the operation started in mid January, 214 combatants and 2557 non combatants have surrendered to the Joint Task Force, while 89 members of FDLR have been killed.
“We see many indicators of success in these operations,” said Brig. General Jacques Musemakweli who heads the J2 in Rwanda Defence Forces and had accompanied the Minister.
Other achievements presented to MPs include the destruction of the enemy’s “centre of gravity” in Masisi general area; the restoration of the DRC state authority in areas where JTF operated; and the integration into FARDC (DRC national army) of various Congolese rebel groups that operated in the area.