The United Nations must go beyond mere adoption of resolutions that condemn the continued hostilities by the DR Congo-based Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia and act decisively against the militant group, analysts have said.
Last week, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for immediate disarmament and disbandment of the FDLR fighters and for immediate cessation of support to the militants from the Congolese army, FARDC.
But keen observers of security issues in the region say such “empty resolutions” will make no difference since similar statements have been made before with little or no impact.
FLDR is composed of elements largely blamed for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda which claimed the lives of more than a million people.
Members of the group crossed into DR Congo after mastminding the killings and are also accused of human rights violations against the host communities.
“One sees an uncomfortable pattern of decisions over the years that have had little if any, bearing on the threat posed by the FDLR on the ground. I’m afraid Resolution 2014/55 is just another empty resolution as far as FDLR is concerned,” said Alice Urusaro Karekezi, of the University of Rwanda’s Centre for Conflict Management.
“Unless this resolution is followed by a more detailed operational plan that lay out the specifics of operations against the FDLR, the UN will remain a paper tiger as far as this militia is concerned.”
Karekezi said it is time the UN and its peacekeeping mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO) take resolute actions against the terrorist organisation, which she said is a major factor in the continued insecurity in the region, notably in eastern DR Congo.
“The (Security Council) Resolution is one thing, eliminating the FDLR threat is quite another. We still fail civilians with regard to our collective Responsibility to Protect, at least where FDLR is concerned,” Karekezi said.
MONUSCO has particularly come under scrutiny over failure to disarm FDLR, especially after its leaders had announced they would turn the guns to the militia group following the defeat of the M23 rebel group last November.
Aloys Mahwa, the executive director of Interdisciplinary Genocide Studies Centre (IGSC), a Kigali-based syndicate composed of Rwandan and international scholars, said there is need to put MONUSCO under pressure to take on the FDLR.
“There is need for strong action against the FDLR, the same way M23 was fought,” he said.
Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, a Ugandan researcher and author, said he did not believe the latest UN resolution will affect FDLR an ounce.
“All these things mean nothing as long as MONUSCO and the FIB (Force Intervention Brigade, a 3000-strong unit within MONUSCO with an aggressive mandate) won’t go after the FDLR. Declarations and resolutions won’t change anything on the ground as long as MONUSCO has no interest in doing what they are supposed to do,” he said.
Golooba-Mutebi, a lecturer at Makerere University, said there was every reason to believe that MONUSCO is well aware of the collaboration that exists between the Congolese army and FDLR militia.
“I am not aware of any efforts to fight FDLR on the part of either FARDC or MONUSCO and its Force Intervention Brigade. After the defeat of M23, they turned their attention to ADF (Ugandan rebel group) which is hundreds of kilometres away from where M23 used to operate, the same area where FDLR are based at the moment,” he said.
FDLR occupying M23 bases
The don accused MONUSCO of ignoring the FDLR threat even as the latter continued to consolidate its presence in nearby areas, especially those vacated by M23.
“It’s as if they removed M23 to create space for the FDLR,” Golooba-Mutebi said.
He challenged MONUSCO’s claim that fighting FDLR was complicated because they are embedded in communities, living among women and children. “The very idea that the FIB went into the DRC to fight negative forces has turned out to be a joke – at least until now.”
“As the UN Security Council stated in its resolution, the FDLR enjoys the support of the FARDC. But that we knew before. Previously, there has been fairly strong evidence showing how elements of FDLR were embedded in FARDC units, and that MONUSCO knew all about that, they even fought alongside them against M23. So, for FARDC and MONUSCO, it looks like they are wondering, ‘how do we now turn guns against our allies?” he said.
Martin Kobler, the head of MONUSCO, told the UN Security Council last month that the Mission would finalise the review of its military deployment across eastern DR Congo in a few weeks but it is not yet clear what the new deployment means for FDLR.
Over the last decade or so, the Security Council has adopted a series of resolutions condemning the atrocities committed by FDLR and urging the group to lay down arms.
Several of the group’s political and military leaders were also slapped with travel and financial sanctions, but it is believed that most of the targeted individuals have concealed their identities by using passports of different nationalities under pseudonyms.
In the recent past, a handful of Rwandan opposition elements have moved to form alliances with FDLR, while the militia group has also reportedly received sympathies from senior Tanzanian leaders–which has raised questions about the neutrality of the Intervention Brigade since the country maintains a significant number of troops in the battalion. A Tanzanian general commands the brigade.
Egide Nkuranga, the vice president of Ibuka, an umbrella of Genocide survivors associations, said it was important that both FARDC and MONUSCO cut any ties with FDLR and instead stand on the side of justice by helping bring to book those suspected of taking a key part in the Genocide 20 years ago.
“MONUSCO needs to pressure FARDC to stop any kind of support to FDLR; even if MONUSCO were not directly working with FDLR, the fact that FARDC who are their partners work with FDLR means that they too are indirectly involved with this group of genocidaires,” he said.
“At a time we are marking 20 years of the Genocide, it’s would be expected that friends of justice all over the world will say ‘enough is enough’ to impunity and help bring to book perpetrators who are still at large, including many in FDLR ranks.”
Last year, FDLR units made brief incursions on Rwanda on several occasions, causing some deaths in areas near DR Congo border.
UN has maintained a peacekeeping force in DR Congo for the last 14 years, with the bulk of the force in the same regions where FDLR maintains strongholds.