There is new body of evidence of continued collaboration between the Congolese army, FARDC, and FDLR, the militia blamed for the slaughter of more than a million people during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, including giving ammunition to the combatants, according to a leaked UN report.
The damning revelations, contained in the mid-term report of the UN Group of Experts on the Congo, casts further uncertainty about the success of envisaged joint military operations by a UN peacekeeping force and Congolese army against a militia Kigali says is essentially driven by an insatiable thirst for blood.
“Three former FDLR combatants, including a former FDLR radio operator based at the FDLR headquarters who was receiving messages from FDLR units, told the Group that FDLR often obtained ammunition from FARDC elements,” reads part of the report.
The report, whose details emerge at a time the UN mission in the Congo is coming under growing pressure to launch offensives against FDLR combatants after the latter failed to disarm as required, was last month shared with the members of the UN Security Council but is yet to be made public.
It’s not the first time the Congolese army has been accused of collaborating with the FDLR, at least at the local level, with some of the previous reports suggesting that Kinshasa had actually integrated some FDLR elements into the national army.
The new report also accuses the FDLR of stepping up a recruitment drive, including conscription of children into its ranks in the recent past, including during the six-month ultimatum it had been given to disarm voluntarily.
The deadline, which expired on January 2, was provided by ICGLR and SADC regional interstate groupings and backed by African Union and the UN Security Council.
“According to former child soldiers and combatants, FDLR has also continued to recruit combatants during 2014, including children. A former FDLR combatant based in Lemera, South Kivu, told the Group that in February, FDLR forcibly recruited about 25 people, including children, in the villages of Kitopo and Miki, where there are many Rwandan refugees,” they say in the report.
The UN GoE report also pokes holes in recent claims by the FDLR that it had started disarming and sending fighters to designated assembly points as required by international and regional actors, saying those who surrendered were essentially not fit enough to fight.
According to Demobilisation, Disarmament, Repatriation, Resettlement and Reintegration (DDRRR) data available to the Group at the Walungu camp, the report says, many of the combatants were over 40 years old, among whom were a blind man and a man with only one arm.
In August 2014, it adds, two former FDLR combatants from South Kivu told the Group they thought FDLR commanders had sent “older and non-essential combatants” for disarmament in order to prolong the process.
Lies about battalion
A Monusco staff also expressed this view to the Group, the report adds, in reference to the 20,000-plus-strong UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Congo, the world’s largest peacekeeping force that was last year bolstered with a 3,000-strong battalion mandated to carry out offensive operations.
“In addition, during the Group’s visit to Walungu, FDLR combatants told the Group they were part of the ‘Leopard Battalion;’ however, battalion structures no longer exist within FDLR,” it adds, collaborating earlier reports by international organisations that the militia’s alleged disarmament process lacked credibility.
In November, last year, a report by Enough Project, a not-for-profit organisation, dubbed ‘How to Dismantle a Deadly Militia,’ indicated that the blacklisted terrorist group was instead “regrouping, mobilising political support, and continuing to pose a regional security threat.”
The Enough Project report indicated that FDLR, which it said was responsible for numerous atrocities, including rape and torture, focused on reorganising in three main areas, namely; generating more income to trade for ammunition and weapons, mobilising political support in an attempt to gain greater legitimacy, and preparing to avoid military defeat through alliance-building and recruitment.
FDLR is profiting heavily by trading gold through DR Congo’s North Kivu Province and Uganda and by illegally producing and trading charcoal from Virunga National Park, a trade estimated to be worth $32 million a year, the Enough Project report says.
Commenting on the latest UN Group of Experts report, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Louise Mushikiwabo, said Kigali had been “waiting patiently, fulfilling all its obligations toward the UNSG Framework, to see decisive action against the FDLR, only to witness inaction accompanied by excuses.”
“All stakeholders, particularly guarantors of the Framework must now take their responsibility,” she told The New Times in reference to the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for DR Congo and the Region, signed more than a year ago.
Dragging on offensive
Described by several top UN diplomats as the ‘Framework of Hope’, the UN-sponsored deal was signed by 12 regional Heads of State in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, on February 24, 2013, with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, and the leaders of ICGLR and SADC signing off as guarantors.
Mushikiwabo criticised what she described as “the same attitude toward Genocide perpetrators as 20 years ago,” and warned that “violence and support for men who killed a million Rwandans takes a toll on a regional stability.”
Monusco has come under increasing pressure to launch operations against the FDLR following the expiry of the January 2 disarmament deadline, but the peacekeepers have so far only increased calls for the militia to surrender with no visible preparations to take attack them.
Meanwhile, in a brief statement released last evening, the UN said Secretary General Ban Ki-moon yesterday spoke on phone with DR Congo President Joseph Kabila and called for “decisive action” against the FDLR.
“The Secretary General reiterated that the FDLR has failed to deliver on its promise to disarm and that the deadline of January 2 had passed without significant results,” it said, adding that Ban welcomed Kabila’s assurance that his government was “ready to take action and noted that Monusco was ready to engage with FARDC.”