A July 1 press release from the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) indicates that 10, 045 Rwandans – including former FDLR combatants and dependants, were repatriated between January 1 and June 29, this year.
The MONUC communiqué says that 2,436 of them, among whom 1,148 were combatants, were returned to Rwanda by MONUC’s Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Reinstallation and Reintegration (DDRRR) programme while another 7,609 came through the UN Refugee Agency – UNHCR.
•Huge figure may mislead, warns Sayinzoga
John Sayinzoga, the Chairman of the Rwanda Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission (RDRC) did not entirely contest the huge UN figures, but noted that whenever such returnees were re-screened, the RDRC found that a substantial number were not really Rwandans or former FDLR elements.
“That is how they (MONUC and UNHCR) do their counting but you know when these people finally come to Rwanda, we re-screen them and take out many Congolese who were pretending to be Rwandese,” says Sayinzoga.
He noted that his Commission has observed many of the returnees were usually Congolese nationals, others former CNDP rebel elements as well as civilians and children but not FDLR elements.
According to Sayinzoga, there are currently about 640 former FDLR combatants at the Mutobo demobilization Centre.
As indicated early last February, FDLR returnees had significantly increased amid the joint Rwanda-DRC offensive (operation Umoja Wetu) to flush them out of eastern DR Congo.
Both the UNHCR and MONUC had then affirmed that there had been an unprecedented and, growing number of rebel FDLR elements returning.
Umoja Wetu (Our unity) was the code name for the mid-January to mid-February joint Rwanda-DRC military offensive against ex-Far/Interahamwe elements or the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
Currently, another joint military offensive – operation Kimia II, is being conducted by the DRC army, with MONUC’s support against the remainder of the rebels in eastern DRC.
•Rebels continue spreading fear
Two separate attacks on Congolese army positions by the FDLR, particularly on June 30, as the Congolese celebrated Independence Day were repulsed but the FDLR are reported to have continued spreading fear in other reprisal attacks.
The rebels struck again, burning houses, displacing locals and pillaging on Wednesday in a North Kivu village called Miriki, 200 kilometres north of Goma.
Lt. Col. Jean-Paul Dietrich, MONUC’s Chief Military Spokesperson confirmed this Thursday, also noting that the FARDC were already deployed in the area, in addition to a MONUC base, 20 kms away.
“Our troops were informed that there has been burning of huts in the village of Miriki. Our MONUC night patrol from Loufu diverted immediately to Miriki.
The patrol reached the location and enquired about the incident. As per locals, no loss to human life has been reported. However, reportedly 140 houses were burnt and approximately 100 families fled into the nearby forest,” says Dietrich.
Although Dietrich states that it is not yet clear, who is to blame for this incident, he observes that Miriki is an old stronghold of FDLR.
“According to FARDC sources, the population there does not want the presence of the Congolese Army, especially those units comprising former CNDP elements. Allegedly, Miriki used to be an economic hub for illegal activities by the FDLR.”
Dietrich, however, could not confirm yet another incident reported in an area called Walungu, in South Kivu where the rebels allegedly attacked.