January 4, 2015

DRC Rebels Miss SA Disarmament Deadline

FDLR presence in eastern Congo remains an irritant to Rwanda's Tutsi leadership
FDLR presence in eastern Congo remains an irritant to Rwanda’s Tutsi leadership

The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) have missed the deadline set by the Southern African Development Community to voluntarily disarm themselves, it said on Saturday.

“The deadline set by the heads of state and government of SADC… for the FDLR to disarm voluntarily or face military action expired yesterday, 2 January 2015,” SADC chairman President Jacob Zuma said in a statement.

A joint summit by the SADC heads of states would be held in Luanda, Angola to decide on the appropriate action to be taken.

 Zuma urged the FDLR to come forward and disarm themselves unconditionally.

“SADC remains committed to the internationally mandated objective of neutralising all negative forces operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including the FDLR, and remains ready to play its fullest part in this regard,” he said.

Ongoing war

The east of the DRC has been a conflict area for two decades, French news agency AFP reported last month.

It was the scene of two major wars between 1996 and 2003, with neighbouring countries including Uganda and Rwanda intervening directly or using militias to do their bidding.

In spite of the presence of 20 000 UN peacekeepers, around 50 Congolese and foreign armed groups are still active in the region.

As part of accords signed in February 2013 to bring peace to the Great Lakes region, Kinshasa promised to overhaul its armed forces and promote national reconciliation and democratic reform.

Last Sunday 151 FDLR combatants disarmed voluntarily and 67 weapons were handed over in the North and South Kivu provinces.

“This brings the total number of combatants who have disarmed since May 2014 to 337 and the number of weapons handed over to 234,” Zuma said.

This was approximately 24% of the FDLR’s total armed members.

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