UN urges Rwandan rebels in DRC to surrender

Saturday December 6 2014

By FRED OLUOCH, TEA Special Correspondent

The United Nations is still holding out hope that Rwandan rebels holed up in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo will opt for peaceful surrender as the deadline set by the International Conference on the Great Lakes (ICGLR) draws nearer.

The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) have until January 2015 to give up arms and join the disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration (DDR) programme offered by the DR Congo but there is concern that the group is re-arming. 

However, as Said Djinnit the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, maintained in an interview early in the week that the ultimate goal is the unconditional and permanent disarmament of the FDLR and the use of force will be the last option.  

Mr Djinnit noted that the unconditional and permanent demobilisation of the FDLR can only be fully realised in a regional context and that he is working closely with the UN sanctions committee and international partners to strengthen economic sanctions against the FDLR and other armed groups operating in eastern DRC.

Illegal exploitation of resources

“There is 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,” said Mr Djinnit.

The surrender of FDLR fighters was announced by the executive secretary of the ICGLR, Prof Ntumba Luaba, in May and some of them have already surrendered in Kisangani.

The Congolese government set June 9 as deadline for the group to lay down arms, but there was little progress with only a few hundred fighters complying, forcing the ICGLR in early July to extend the deadline for another six months.

In early November, UN Security Council maintained that there should be no further delay in the voluntary disarmament process of FDLR and other armed groups in eastern DRC, and urged military action against FDLR who refused or failed to engage in the process.

The special envoy is also concerned that many armed groups in eastern DRC are sustained through the illegal exploitation of the vast natural resources in that region.

His office has been working closely with their international and regional partners to address the issue of conflict minerals which are a source of human rights abuses, sustenance of armed groups and endangered the legal exportation of minerals from the region.