New plan to deal with armed groups in DRC

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda have agreed to put an end to the presence of armed groups in the DRC that pose a threat to all of them, the DRC government announced on Friday.

After a two-day meeting in Lubumbashi, the main city in the south-eastern Katanga province of the DRC, “the three countries reaffirmed their commitment to put an end to the threat posed to the security of the three countries by the presence and activities of the negative forces in the east”, a statement said.

In the framework of a 2004 tripartite agreement aimed at restoring peace in the Great Lakes, “they agreed to put into effect a United States-sponsored mechanism for exchanging information, to establish confidence between the countries and deal with the problem of armed groups in the east of the DRC”.

Although the statement referred to “negative forces”, the only group to be mentioned by name in the statement was rebel Rwandan Hutus belonging to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

After hiding in the jungles of the east of the DRC for the past 11 years, on March 31 the FDLR announced in Rome it was giving up its armed struggle and agreeing to go back to Rwanda.

Its presence has soured relations between the DRC and Rwanda for a decade, with Kigali charging that the rebels took an active part in the genocide of an estimated 800 000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994.

The DRC argued that Rwanda had used the presence of the FDLR as an “excuse” for regular forays into its territory.

Referring to the Rome statement, the three parties, backed by the observers present (the African Union, Belgium, Britain, the European Union and United Nations), “agreed to make use of the tripartite process to back the joint efforts of the UN mission in the DRC [Monuc] and the DRC to disarm, demobilise and repatriate FDLR members to Rwanda”.

“The Rwandan government praised the efforts of the DRC [to encourage repatriation] and repeated its commitment to receive the members of the FDLR and their families,” the statement said.

Rwanda’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Protais Mitali, agreed that there is a commitment “to work in close collaboration. We’ve got a long way on our side. We have a scheme to welcome back the ex-Interhamwe [militia] who will soon return to Rwanda.”

The statement made no mention of the presence in the DRC of Ugandan rebels belonging to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), although Kampala has recently attacked their presence in the eastern DRC.
But Monuc said there has been no recent proof of any such presence.

Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting, DRC Minister of Foreign Affairs Raymond Ramazani Baya emphasised the need to put in place “structures for combined verification” of these “allegations”.

“We’ve agreed that each country should monitor its border to prevent arms trafficking and infiltration by armed groups,” the minister said.

The three countries will meet again in Kigali in August.

Between 1998 and 2003, the DRC was the theatre of a war that involved half a dozen states in the region, including Rwanda and Uganda. The conflict is estimated to have cost three million lives directly or indirectly.—Sapa-AFP

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