Some states in the Great Lakes region have a “hidden agenda to sanitise and preserve” Hutu rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda’s United Nations ambassador said recently.
That is a key factor preventing a UN combat brigade from acting on its mandate to destroy a genocidal rebel force active in the eastern DR Congo for the past two decades, said Eugene Richard Gasana in a presentation to the Security Council.
The Rwandan envoy did not name the “state and non-state actors” allegedly protecting the Hutu-led Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (known by the French acronym FDLR), but analysts have cited Tanzania and South Africa, which contribute most of the troops in the combat brigade, as states unwilling to support decisive action against the FDLR due to their unfriendly relations with Rwanda.
Mr Gasana told the Security Council that the actors aim to “ultimately destabilise Rwanda.” Noting that it costs $2 billion a year to maintain the UN peacekeeping force in the DR Congo known as Monusco, Mr Gasana deplored the absence of a military offensive to eliminate the FDLR.
A Security Council resolution has authorised such an operation, but the FDLR has been allowed to “promote and commit ethnically based and other killings in Rwanda and the DR Congo,” Mr Gasana added.
He challenged the claim that the UN intervention brigade has been reluctant to attack the FDLR because the group’s combatants have mingled with civilians in the DR Congo.
“This is not true,” he said. “We provided to Monusco extensive evidence of the location of FDLR military camps separate from civilians.”
The head of Monusco had assured the Security Council earlier in the same session that the UN force will take military action against the FDLR if its fighters have not surrendered within two months.
Should the remnants of the Hutu forces that took part in the 1994 genocide fail to disarm in accordance with a UN-imposed January 2, 2015, deadline, military action will become “inevitable,” said Monusco chief Martin Kobler.
Monusco recognises that it has a “moral imperative” to defend civilians from depredations by the FDLR and other rogue elements in the DR Congo, Mr Kobler said. His peacekeeping force is changing its mode of operation in order to pre-empt attacks on civilians, he said.
He and UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Said Djinnit promised the Council that all countries contributing troops to the UN intervention brigade will act in accordance with a decision to attack the FDLR.
The DRC’s ambassador to the United Nations endorsed that position. If some elements of the FDLR remain unwilling to surrender, said Ignace Gata Mavita wa Lufuta, “They will face forced disarmament.”
Fewer than 200 FDLR fighters have handed over their weapons in the four months since the UN imposed a six-month deadline for complete disarmament.