The drums of war are beating more and more incessantly in the Great Lakes region of Africa. But any significant confrontations seem unlikely. In fact, the best we can hope for are mild skirmishes.
The UN Security Council has authorised military action against Democratic Republic of Congo-based FDLR (Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda) rebels due to their threat to civilians in eastern DRC.
For watchers of the Great Lakes region, the acronym ‘FDLR’ is well-known, but to the uninitiated, let me explain exactly who these ‘democratic forces’ are.
Their leadership is composed of former Rwandan government officials and military officers who actively participated in the 1994 Genocide. After their military defeat at the hands of current President Paul Kagame’s RPF (Rwanda Patriotic Front) rebels, they fled west and settled in eastern DRC, from where they began launching guerrilla strikes into Rwandan territory.
Whereas these attacks petered out by the early 2000s, FDLR’s acts of violence and looting have continued in the Congo, where they’ve raped hundreds and killed even more. What is even more irksome is that they use Congolese minerals to buy arms – which they then turn on Congolese civilians.
FDLR is alive and well in eastern DRC
Enter the international community. After the United Nations Force Intervention Brigade (a UN Security Council-mandated contingent composed of crack South African, Malawian and Tanzanian troops) defeated the M23 rebels led by ICC indicted Bosco ‘Terminator’ Ntaganda, they promised to turn their high-powered attack helicopters on the FDLR. That was in 2013.
Two years down the line, and after more FDLR attacks, the international community is rattling its sabres again.
After the FDLR ignored the request to voluntarily disarm by 2 January 2015, a decision made by the regional groupings ICGLR (International Conference on the Great Lakes Region) and SADC (South African Development Community), they’ve been treated with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2147, which allows for a military offensive against them.
In fact, even the wishy-washy European Union has joined the bandwagon. In a press statement released on the 19th January, the EU states, “the moment has come to start military action”.
Fighting words indeed
However, I doubt whether anything will come of all this. Here are the facts:
Which group of FDLR will UN attack?
Secondly, the FDLR isn’t a coherent force. Instead of a massed body of troops, they are in reality a bunch of militiamen, in groups not bigger than 200, spread over a huge surface area. So, if UN forces do attack, which group of FDLR will they attack?
I won’t even analyse whether the UN forces actually want to attack the FDLR. After all, this wouldn’t be the first time they threatened action and did nothing. In fact, when asked about the proposed UN military action in a press conference, President Kagame sounded quite sceptical, saying that any such action would come as a surprise.
So, will there be military action? Not in my opinion. However, I am pleased that the international community is finally waking up to the murderous acts perpetrated by this group.
Perhaps as a result of all this ‘noise’, the FDLR will think twice before perpetrating any more abuses. After all, what they really, really desire is to be taken seriously enough by the international community that the Rwandan government is forced to negotiate a political settlement with them.
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