FDLR must surrender peacefully by January or face military action

My last message to the FDLR and the other armed groups is that criminal accountability is non-negotiable. Those indicted for war crimes must be prepared to face justice.  

BY FRED OLUOCH

IN SUMMARY

Ambassador Said Djinnit, from Algeria was appointed Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region in July 2014. Prior to this appointment, the 60-year old was Commissioner for Peace and Security at the African Union (AU). 

  • Education: He holds a diploma in diplomacy from the École nationale d’administration. He has also studied at the Centre for International Relations Studies, University of Brussels, and at the Institute of Political Affairs, University of Algiers.
  • Experience: Mr Djinnit previously served as the first AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, after holding various positions in the defunct Organisation of African Unity, including as Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs.

    From 2008 until his appointment as Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, Mr Djinnit served as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa. He also served as the High-Level Representative of the Secretary-General to Nigeria, in support of efforts against Boko Haram.

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Southern Africa Development Community, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, the UN and EU, have been making efforts to pacify eastern Congo in line with the Peace, Security and Co-operation Framework signed in Addis Ababa in 2013.

FRED OLUOCH interviewed the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region, SAID DJINNIT on recent developments as the deadline for the FDLR voluntary disarmament slated for January 2, 2015 approaches.

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There have been two ICGLR and Southern African Development Community (SADC) ministerial meetings since July to review the FDLR disarmament. What is the progress so far?

The Joint ICGLR/SADC Ministerial meetings had decided and maintained that the FDLR voluntary surrender and disarmament be completed within six months with effect from July 2, 2014.

I strongly urge the FDLR to fully take advantage of this window of opportunity and surrender within the prescribed time frame building on the start of the voluntary relocation to Kisangani of some of their elements.

In this regard, I welcome the arrangements made by the DRC government with the support of Monusco to receive FDLR in transit camps.

The ultimate goal is the unconditional and permanent disarmament of the FDLR. We are hopeful that the FDLR will understand the necessity to disarm peacefully and surrender by January 2, 2015.   

Why has there been slow progress regarding the voluntary surrender and disarmament of FDLR forces? 

The DR Congo government and the UN are doing everything possible to create enabling conditions in the designated reception centres and transit camps for the FDLR elements willing to disarm.

We care about the safety of the civilian population, and we care about the safety of the FDLR elements who are ready to surrender.

The Special Representative to the UN Secretary-General in the DR Congo, Martin Kobler and other representatives of the diplomatic community including countries in the region recently visited the Kisangani camp to ascertain that the necessary conditions were met to receive the FDLR members and their families.

Member states of SADC and the ICGLR countries had earlier threatened to use force against those unwilling to disarm. Is this the best option?   

The leaders in the region unanimously agreed that military action should be taken against the FDLR in the event of non-compliance within six months running up to deadline. However, while preparing for military option, every effort should be made to push for peaceful disarmament.

The use of force will be the last option. We continue to advocate for a peaceful conclusion to the disarmament of the FDLR.

Besides use of force, what other options are open to the region and the UN should some elements of FDLR completely refuse to surrender? 

The unconditional and permanent demobilisation of the FDLR can only be fully realised in a regional context, and this is where the Office of the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region comes into play.

In this role, while I continue to call on the FDLR to disarm peacefully and unconditionally, I am encouraging all the concerned stakeholders to ensure that the decisions made  by the region and the UN Security Council will be taken in due course, including military action if necessary.

We would otherwise lose our collective credibility. I am also working with the UN sanctions committee and international partners to strengthen economic sanctions against the FDLR and other armed groups operating in eastern DRC, because there is full evidence that these groups are operating big business through the illegal exploitation of the natural resources in the territories that they occupy.

My last message to the FDLR and the other armed groups is that criminal accountability is non-negotiable. Those indicted for war crimes must be prepared to face justice.  

Is Rwanda willing to take members of FDLR back without retribution. Has the UN taken this into account?   

I welcome the statement of the government of Rwanda to accept voluntary FDLR returnees under the current MONUSCO Disarmament, Demobilisation, Reintegration, Repatriation, and Resettlement (DDR/RR) mechanism.   

Are all the ICGLR countries helping the FDLR to surrender, in what way? 

The common position of the region, including the Heads of State of the ICGLR and the SADC, is that the FDLR must surrender unconditionally and disarm within the agreed time frame or face military action.

This position was clearly articulated in the joint ICGLR/SADC ministerial meeting in July, as well as in the ICGLR and SADC Summits in August, and remains the same today.

Missions have been dispatched to urge FDLR to disarm voluntarily and warn them of the military consequences in case of non-compliance. We need to ensure that the process initiated in Luanda by the region remains credible.

My role as UN Special Envoy for the region is precisely to galvanise all the support needed to achieve our common goal of bringing peace and stability to eastern DRC and to the region.

What is the strategy against other rebel groups such as Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (Nalu)? 

I reiterate my strong condemnation of the recent massacres attributed to ADF-Nalu in Beni as well as my sympathy and solidarity with the affected families, the people and government of the DRC.

I encourage the armed forces of the DRC with the support of Monusco to step up their efforts and take decisive action against those responsible of these heinous acts.

The leaders of the region and the international stakeholders have a common position towards all the negative forces in eastern DRC. They must stop the killings of innocent people and all the other atrocities against the civilian

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