The Rwandan government has accused some African countries of frustrating efforts to clamp down on the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda. The rebels have until January 2 to fully disarm or face military action.
“It is not a magic date,” Minister for Foreign Affairs Louise Mushikiwabo said. “What would be magical is change in attitude by some of the countries and some leaders on this continent with regard to this genocidal group.”
“We knew when this deadline was set that nothing would happen and I think will be proven right,” she added.
Without naming specific countries, Ms Mushikiwabo said the government remains sceptical that the international community will take action against the rebel group, whose members are accused of committing atrocities during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
Rwanda also plans to beef up security on its borders even though it maintains that FDLR does not pose a military threat.
“What is important for us is that whether there is military action against FDLR on January 3 or not, Rwanda is ready,” Ms Mushikiwabo said.
Ms Mushikiwabo said the problem of the FDLR rebel group has been a longstanding one, which the international community has refused to deal with.
“The biggest problem we have with FDLR is its genocide ideology, which it continues to spread in this region. Otherwise, we don’t care how many they are, whether they are 1,000 or 3,000. FDLR does not pose a major military threat to Rwanda,” she said.
She said there were political players who protect and support FDLR’s propaganda. She said Rwanda did not support the extension of the deadline that was given to FDLR to disarm.
“Of course, we could not stand in the way of a decision reached by a number of countries. For us, the issue was not the deadline or the extension. Our concern is the lack of political will among some of the countries involved in this process.”
“We keep repeating the same words, resolutions, outcomes, communiques… but when it comes to action, some start saying that currently many members of FDLR are young people and were not part of the genocide,” she said.
She questioned whether the sympathy shown to FDLR can be extended to neo-Nazis in Europe who sympathise with Hitler. Ms Mushikiwabo said that Rwanda would wish to see military action taken against the rebel force, which has existed in DRC for the past 20 years but she added that she doubts if the UN force is ready to strike the bases of the rebels.
“I don’t think the UN force is ready to strike FDLR. We can only wait and see,” she said, adding that January 2 will show those “pretending and those who are not.”
Last week, both the DRC government and Monusco said the deadline for FDLR to disarm voluntarily and repatriate will not be extended and military strikes will follow. However, there have been fears by humanitarian actors that the looming strike on the rebels could pose a major humanitarian crisis considering that the rebels continue to mingle with ordinary citizens.
DRC government spokesperson Lambert Mende said that upon the expiry of the ultimatum, there will be no more extension.
“Our armed forces and partners will launch a military offensive to forcibly disarm the FDLR,” Mr Mende told IRIN news agency last week.
As military action looms, humanitarian activists warn that strikes should be the last option as they will come with a loss of civilian lives.
“Any military operation risks creating a humanitarian fallout. In eastern Congo, one of our biggest concerns is increased displacement in areas that are already overwhelmed by the needs of displaced people,” said Frances Charles, advocacy manager with World Vision DRC.