Congo: A Comprehensive Strategy to Disarm the FDLR

Posted in Africa | 13-Jul-09 | Source: International Crisis Group

Two Rwandan Hutu rebels of the FDLR stand in dense forest in February outside Pinga, northwest of Goma.

Nairobi/Brussels, 9 July 2009: The Congolese and Rwandan governments, as well as the international community, must formulate a new comprehensive strategy to dismantle the Rwandan Hutu rebels or face continuing regional instability.

Congo: A Comprehensive Strategy to Disarm the FDLR,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the failed attempts of the past to dismantle the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), an insurgency with roots that go back to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. It recommends a new approach to help end great civilian suffering and restore state authority in the eastern Congo. Clear division of labour and better coordination are needed to capitalise on recently improved Congo-Rwanda relations.

"New momentum is required, involving national, regional and international actors", says Guillaume Lacaille, Crisis Group's Senior Congo Analyst. "The separation of the FDLR leadership from its rank-and-file should be the priority. Unless the FDLR is closed down, the militarisation of the Kivus, the absence of state control and the extensive violations of human rights will prolong the suffering and endanger the Congo's stability".

In Operation "Umoja Wetu" (Our Unity) earlier this year, the Rwandan army moved through North Kivu province, seeking to uproot the rebel militia from its main strongholds. The results of the 35-day offensive were much more modest than officially celebrated. Barely a month after it ended, the FDLR regrouped and began to retaliate against civilians. A new military campaign by the Congolese army and the UN mission (MONUC) -"Kimia II" has failed to protect the population and should be called off.

Experience shows that piecemeal disarmament, forced or voluntary, and unilateral attempts by the Congo to negotiate a settlement with the rebels will not succeed. Crisis Group proposes a new strategy that includes:

civilian protection by responsible Congolese security forces and the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUC);

a reformed disarmament and demobilisation program involving psychological operations and informational campaigns as well as options for return or resettlement (including in third countries);

Rwanda's development of a list of FDLR génocidaires in eastern Congo and their subsequent isolation by sophisticated psychological operations, accompanied by talks with commanders not involved in the 1994 genocide;

in due course, limited military actions by Congolese army units specifically trained to weaken the command and control structure of the rebels in coordination with Rwandan forces;

legal initiatives in third countries to block propaganda and aid from FDLR leaders outside Congo;

consolidation of Rwanda-Congo relations; and

dividends for the people of the Great Lakes region through economic and social development.
"Without progress on ending the FDLR problem once and for all, their presence in eastern Congo will contribute to regional instability ", warns François Grignon, Crisis Group's Africa Program Director, "and the promising Congo-Rwanda entente will be at risk".

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*Read the full Crisis Group report on our website: http://www.crisisgroup.org

Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) +32 (0) 2 541 1635

Kimberly Abbott (Washington) +1 202 785 1601
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