Are the DR Congo and Rwanda moving towards renewed military confrontation? There are growing causes for alarm and anxiety in the region is rising. Especially worrying is that the many international organisations supposed to bring peace to the Great Lakes region appear to be either powerless or complicit, albeit involuntarily.
In three contributions, Kongo-Echo is looking at three recent incidents and developments:
– the border incident near Goma a few weeks ago
– the new DRC visa restrictions
– the new respectability given to the FDLR
3 – New respectability fot the FDLR
On 24 June the interim president of the Rwandan Hutu militia FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) stationed in Eastern DRC, Rumuli (Victor Byiringiro or Gaston Iyamuremye) was flown from Goma to Kinshasa by the UN mission Monusco. He was supposed to travel on to Rome the next day to participate in a high-level meeting between the FDLR and international special representatives arranged by the Catholic community Sant’Egidio. He did not fly to Rome in the end because he is subject to UN sanctions including a travel ban. The relevant sanctions committee refused an exemption request submitted by the (French) head of the UN peacekeeping department, Hervé Ladsous.
Rwanda’s government was furious and made this public. In a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, the Rwandan mission to the UN said that the exemption request alone was a breach of UN resolutions and Monusco had not even waited for an answer „before starting the process of airlifting a UN sanctioned individual, as well as other FDLR leaders, including individuals wanted by the Government of Rwanda for their responsibility in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi“.
So now UN representatives are talking to the FDLR – Monusco head Martin Kobler participated in the Rome meeting as well as representatives of the DRC government. While everyone says that „the military option remains on the table“, the Congolese government as well as several SADC member states has consistently rejected military strikes against the FDLR, while Rwanda insists the UN intervention brigade FIB is mandated to fight FDLR. Monusco will not enter into action without green lightfrom the DRC government.
A SADC-ICGLR summit in Angola’s capital Luanda on 3 July gave the FDLR six months to voluntarily lay down its arms – Angola and Rwanda argued in vain for two months, but the DRC rejected this.
The result? Heightened mistrust and the revival of a generalised, multi-dimensional political-military conflict between Rwanda and the DRC. The UN has been unable to defuse this conflict.
The background of the Rome meeting and of the new FDLR diplomacy will be analysed in depth in a special contribution shortly.