More than a year after the UN Security Council adopted a resolution 2098 to disarm FDLR, analysts say that it remains ominously unclear whether the UN mission in the DR Congo (MONUSCO) is ready to take a move against the militia.
On the ground, there is nothing yet to confirm there is will to rein in the militia even if MONUSCO says it has completed a plan for a military operation.
Tanzanian and South African troops, who are leading the new special UN Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), cannot be trusted to do the job either, analysts say.
The FIB is the first UN peacekeeping unit mandated to conduct targeted operations to neutralise armed groups in the eastern DR Congo.
Last October, it took the FARDC backed by the FIB just four days to dislodge the M23 rebels from their heavily-fortified strategic strongholds in Kibumba, Rumangabo and Rutshuru, in North Kivu Province.
The M23 defeat stunned many eastern DR Congo observers because the rebels had until that time shown an upper hand and reinforced their positions after fighting off the Congolese army in August.
Their defeat was proof that with commitment, other negative forces– including FDLR and Uganda’s Allied Democratic Forces could also be eliminated in a short time.
Indeed after helping to defeat M23 rebels last year, Monusco indicated that the FDLR were next on the agenda to face its well-equipped FIB.
Based in North Kivu and comprising over 3,000 troops from Tanzania, South Africa and Malawi, the FIB was authorised by the Security Council on March 28, 2013 through Resolution 2098 to disarm the FDLR.
On Wednesday, the UN special envoy to DR Congo and Monusco, Martin Kobler, tweeted that “the FDLR must surrender immediately. The preparation of operations [against FDLR] is complete.”
“Monusco is committed to act strongly against FDLR. This is why we call them to surrender peacefully before it is too late,” Kobler added.
The German diplomat, however, did not present a specific deadline.
Asked to comment on this, Brig. Gen. Joseph Nzabamwita, Rwanda’s military and defence spokesperson, instead, posed a question: “When are they conducting the military operations against FDLR? Monusco has had the mandate and a budget of $1.5billion [for a long time].”
Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, called for the end of empty promises to fight the FDLR.
“It’s not the first time that Kobler has come up with a tough talk against the FDLR. What Rwanda needs is concrete action and a concrete plan to fight the FDLR génocidaires with a view to neutralise them as requested by resolution 2098,” he says.
The FDLR was formed in the DR Congo, in September 2000, when the Army for the Liberation of Rwanda (ALIR), a group largely composed of members of the Interahamwe and former Armed Forces of Rwanda (ex-FAR) that – together – carried out the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, agreed to dissolve.
After being defeated in 1994, they took refuge in eastern DR Congo where they live to date.
Over a week ago, Gen. Abdallah Wafy, the Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for the Rule of Law, told reporters that the FDLR will be forcefully disarmed if they do not surrender before a Monusco plan to fight them is finalised.
Instead of heading the call to surrender, FDLR instead carried out attacks against civilians near their bases in DR Congo. Reports indicate that the militia particularly committed atrocities in the Lubero territory of North Kivu, where they reportedly raped, and looted in at least seven villages.
“Monusco is still committed in line with Resolution 2098, to disarm all armed groups in Eastern DRC that are threatening civilians’ security. And Monusco’s priority remains the FDLR and then ADF,” Dorian Lacombe of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations’ Department of Field Support (Public Affairs Section) told The New Times.
“Monusco heard about this FDLR plan to disarm in December last year. Since then nothing has really changed on the ground: the FDLR has not taken any concrete steps to disarm and their activities continue”.
The lingering question is: why, after decisively crushing the M23, can’t the same fervour be used against a Genocidal militia that is considered to be a root cause of the region’s instability?
Dr Frederick Golooba-Mutebi (PhD), a Ugandan researcher and political scientist, says that it looks as if after dislodging the M23, the UN force was actually intent on creating “space for the FDLR.” He is of the view that the very idea that the FIB went into the DR Congo to fight negative forces turned out to be “a nonsense.”
His view is premised on the fact that in the past, fairly strong evidence emerged that FDLR were embedded in FARDC units, and that Monusco knew all about it, even fought alongside them against M23.
“I think that for Tanzania and South Africa, their target was M23, mainly to help Kabila overcome what was clearly the most formidable of the militias ranged up against his government. FDLR is not giving the DRC government trouble in the same way M23 was. Moreover, if it is true that the DRC government has elements of the FDLR embedded in its army, it presents Monusco and the FIB-contributing countries with a dilemma,” Golooba said.
He added: “Here is a group causing civilians a lot of grief while at the same time it is a partner of the government. How do you fight it without fighting your host government as well? That, I think, is one of the reasons Monusco is going slow and may never really tackle the FDLR seriously”.