No amount of pressure will rout the FDLR from the DR Congo unless Kinshasa stops propping up the genocidal militia and round up the bandits whose whereabouts in the vast country are well known to the Congolese government, analysts say.
Observers say that the militia, a leftover of the masterminds of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi that now operates in eastern DR Congo from where it continues to nurse genocide ideology, can be disarmed without firing a single shot if Kinshasa willed it.
If President Joseph Kabila’s government cut off arms supplies, stopped the militia from plundering Congolese resources and urged local chiefs (les chefs coutumiers) to denounce them, FDLR would be purged effortlessly.
This view is premised on what is referred to as “an internal factor” in which Kabila and his security institutions – military, police and intelligence – appear to have a soft spot for the militia.
“Intelligence reports Kabila gets depend on how those who present the reports view FDLR or relate with them,” says Dr. Sheikh Omar Khalfan, a lecturer of political science and international relations at the University of Rwanda.
To further complicate matters, observers say, the FDLR has infiltrated the Congolese military.
For Edouard Munyamaliza, president Rwanda Civil Society Platform, Kinshasa has not demonstrated the will to disarm and demobilize the militia, but SADC, ICGLR and UN must also stop talking and ‘walk the talk.’
Last year, ICGLR (the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region) and SADC (Southern African Development Community) gave FDLR six months to surrender or face military action. The deadline passed on January 2 and since then there has been no action.
Instead, South African President Jacob Zuma, proposed another ICGLR-SADC summit to “chart the way forward,” but was turned down by host, Angola indicating that the earlier resolution should be implemented.
“It is of no use for people to meet and decide but never walk the talk. It is also unfortunate for Zuma to propose further discussions. What is also depressing is that Tanzania and South Africa were active when fighting M23 but did not use the same intensity to fight FDLR,” said Munyamaliza.
The militia reportedly continues to recruit massively despite the six-month ultimatum and Security Council Resolution 2098 of March 2013 that set up and authorized a special force to neutralize negative forces in eastern DR Congo.
The UN Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), a military formation under UN Stabilization Mission in DR Congo (Monusco) commanded by Tanzanian General, James Mwakibolwa, in 2013 crushed the M23 rebellion in four days but remains reluctant to attack FDLR.
While Kinshasa solely holds the solution to FDLR menace, there is a limited role of internal actors who are largely beneficiaries of the instability caused by various negative forces, including the FDLR, operating in Congo.
Sources say that the vast North Kivu Province alone has about 17 militia groups, with the main one being FDLR, and each is being propped up by some western governments and multinationals scrambling for resources. DR Congo watchers say the latter prefer turbulence there to further their business interests, while blaming Rwanda and Uganda for the chaos in the country.
Dr Efraim Zuroff, a Holocaust historian and director of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center– an international Jewish human rights agency, drew similarities in unwillingness by DR Congo government and Tanzanian and South African forces that comprise FIB to move against the FDLR, with his attempts to bring Nazi war criminals to face justice.
“The FDLR is an armed force or militia, whereas the Nazi war criminals that I attempt to bring to justice are individuals. In one respect, however, there is a similarity, which appears to be the lack of political will in South Africa, DR Congo, and Tanzania to take the necessary military action against FDLR,” he said.
“The equivalent in my work is the refusal of many countries to bring Holocaust perpetrators to justice that also reflects a lack of political will,” he added.
Dr Phil Clark, of School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, arguably Europe’s only higher education institution specializing on the great lakes region, says that a military offensive against the FDLR is now essential.”
“All other avenues have been exhausted – 13 years of a demobilization process with a guarantee of no prosecutions, attempts at integration into the Congolese armed forces and Vatican-led negotiations in Rome.
The UN and the Congolese government now have little choice but to pursue a military strategy,” Clark said.
“This strategy alone may not completely neutralize the FDLR. Its forces are widespread, sometimes embedded within the local population and the terrain is difficult. So some combination of a military threat and continued incentives for FDLR fighters – including the rebel leadership – to surrender will be necessary.”
But Kigali largely disagrees with this view of a possible human catastrophe, as the militia uses civilians as human shield; and that the terrain can impede a military offensive against the FDLR.
“This is just a pretext brought by those who once again want to shield the FDLR. I never heard this excuse when UNSC resolution 2098 was adopted in March 2013 and when ICGLR/SADC decision was taken in July 2014,” said Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda’s deputy Permanent Representative to the UN.
“They just bring it when the deadline expires. FARDC and MONUSCO know where they are, they even have a map of each of their locations. They should simply act.”
Defense Spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Joseph Nzabamwita, says the militia’s strongholds; be it CRAP (the militia’s intelligence gathering units) in the Virunga Mountains or military camps in South and North Kivu provinces, “are known, and no civilians are in those areas.”
Going by a recently published map showing FDLR locations in DR Congo, it seems targeted strikes along with renunciation of the militia by the Congolese population would succeed.