The Rwandan government has demanded answers from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) on their inaction against the FDLR rebels holed up in that country.
The United Nations body had vowed to deal with the group, which is largely composed of perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in which more than one million people were murdered.
After helping the Congolese army fight the M23 rebels, MONUSCO head Martin Kobler was categorical that the next armed group to be dealt with would be the FDLR; yet several months later, nothing much has been done about the rebel group despite MONUSCO being backed by South African, Malawian and Tanzanian soldiers plus drones.
“We had a meeting with the head of MONUSCO and we showed our displeasure that what was said was not done,” Foreign Affairs Minister and government spokesperson Louise Mushikiwabo told local media. “We shall not allow the problem of FDLR to continue without being handled. For the last few weeks, we have been waiting for something to be done but nothing has so far been done.”
She also scoffed at suggestions by MONUSCO that they had transferred the FDLR from roads to other places. “Their mandate is not to transfer them to other places but to remove them completely. All armed groups should be removed from the DRC.”
Mushikiwabo said that it will be difficult to establish peace in the region when MONUSCO does not fulfill its mandate.
Rwanda expects the FDLR to be eliminated in much the same way as the M23. President Paul Kagame said as much to Russell Feingold, the US Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, when the latter visited him on December 4.
The two leaders “agreed that a sustainable solution [to peace and stability in the region] must include the neutralisation of the FDLR as a matter of priority,” a statement from the President’s office said.
If that were not difficult enough, there is the matter of the group’s long-running collaboration with the Congolese national army, which, essentially, is supposed to lead the attacks against it. According to a report by the UN Group of Experts on the DR Congo, the FARDC formed alliances with FDLR when M23 rebels overran Goma in 2011.
“In January 2012, two former FDLR soldiers witnessed separately meetings between FARDC and FDLR in the Tongo area, during which they exchanged operational information,” the report reads.
“Between January and April 2013, a former FDLR soldier witnessed four distinct ammunition transfers by the FARDC based at Bambo to FDLR, while in February, another former FDLR soldier saw FARDC hand over ammunition to the FDLR, also at Bambo,” it adds.
Although the rebel group has withered in numerical strength over the years, with estimates putting it at between 1,500 and 1,800 combatants, the FDLR has maintained a coherent political and military structure compared with M23, which appeared disjointed throughout its 20-month lifespan.
Security experts in Rwanda say it is through this network that the two-decade-old group still propagates the hate ideology that fuelled the 1994 Genocide. They add that such hatred poses both a physical and ideological threat not only to the country but the region, given how widespread out the group’s targets are.