Regional Heads of State and Government meeting today in the Angolan capital Luanda should consider adopting military action to eliminate the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda militia, experts have said.
The leaders will meet in a mini-summit of Heads of State and Government of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), which aims at assessing the implementation of a previous similar summit that was also held in Luanda on March 25.
The ICGLR said in a release that today’s summit will be “devoted to the assessment of security situation in DR Congo and the Great Lakes Region.”
With regards to the FDLR, a blacklisted terror organisation based in eastern DR Congo and composed of remnants of the militia responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, ICGLR’s Heads of State had ordered in their March 25 mini-summit that the group should be dismantled.
In their final communiqué from the summit, the leaders had recommended that “coordinated efforts” be aimed at “continued repatriation of those (FDLR members) willing to disarm and return (to Rwanda) voluntarily” and engaging urgent military actions against those unwilling to disarm, in line with recommendations of Chiefs of Defence Staff.
It’s nearly five months since March and the United Nations estimates that about 1,500 members of the FDLR militia are yet to disarm
Some experts, analysts, and activists expect today’s Heads of State summit to invoke military actions against the militia.
‘FDLR playing games’
Egide Nkuranga, the vice president of Ibuka, an umbrella of Genocide survivors associations, told The New Times that FDLR has been “playing games” in its promises to disarm but it’s now clear that it won’t unless it’s forced to do so.
“Military action is long overdue. Heads of State need to apply Plan B (military option) because other measures have failed,” he said in an interview yesterday.
The activist said disarming FDLR is a matter of “rendering justice” because some of its members are “criminals roaming free” after they committed massive atrocities in Rwanda.
“If they can surrender, if they can be brought back to Rwanda; then those among them who killed our people here can be brought to justice. The arms they have are the reason why they haven’t been brought to justice up to now,” Nkuranga said.
Political scientist Jean de la Croix Nkurayija, a senior lecturer at the University of Rwanda, is also of the view that the summit might want to invoke military options against FDLR if they comprehensively assess their previous decisions and what has been done so far.
“I think the agenda is clear now because what they (Heads of State) want is to be able to end the FDLR issue by December this year. It will, therefore, be necessary to go to another step,” he said.
Nkurayija said today’s ICGLR summit needs to ensure that FDLR issue gets out of the way if the region is to start working on its economic development.
“The longer the FDLR issue stays, the longer insecurity lingers on in the Great Lakes region,” he said.
The academic also said regional leaders might want to involve the African Union in sending troops to disarm FDLR because the UN Stabilisation Mission in the Congo (Monusco) hasn’t been able to successfully handle the issue.
“African contingents need to be given a chance to be more involved in their own issues. Some members of the UN contingents may have hidden agenda in DR Congo and it could be the reason why they are slow to deliver on their mission,” Nkurayija said.
The M23 treatment
Aloys Mahwa, the executive director of the Interdisciplinary Genocide Studies Centre in Kigali, agrees that at this point, military action should be the way forward in dismantling FDLR.
“The Heads of State (from ICGLR) need to assess why FDLR can’t get the same treatment as M23. The leaders need to provide us with a definitive roadmap to end FDLR because it’s been a threat for security in this region for long,” he said.
The now defunct M23, which was made up of anti-Kinshasa government rebels based in eastern DR Congo, 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.
Repatriation of ex-M23 elements back to DR Congo from their current asylum in Uganda and Rwanda and their reintegration back home in the Congo is also on the agenda of today’s ICGLR summit.
Last week, US Permanent Representative to the UN, Samantha Power, told the UN Security Council that the longer the actors take in seeking a permanent solution for FDLR, the longer it puts at risk any semblance of peace being achieved in the restive eastern DR Congo, where the group has been active for 20 years.