Tuesday, March 03, 2009

DRC News Update: Joint Operations With Rwanda Final Report

Rwanda/DRC Sign Joint Operation Final Report

Martin Tindiwensi
3 March 2009

Goma — Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) yesterday signed a final report of the just concluded joint military offensive against rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in eastern DRC.

The report which included details of the recent operation was signed in Goma by General John Numbi who represented FARDC while Brig.Gen. Jerome Ngendahimana signed on behalf of the RDF.

Gen.Numbi said the operation was a success and thanked the Rwandan government for intervening in efforts to restore peace in the region.

"We are signing this report before all of you as witnesses of our great achievements. The report included details of all the operation and the captured territories which were formally controlled by FDLR.

It also indicates how FDLR soldiers are continuously returning home. Rwandan participation has helped us achieved a lot in such a short time. We had never registered such success as regards the destruction of FDLR structure" he said.

Numbi added that all Rwandan troops that were in DRC have already returned home and that FARDC will continue with the operation to restore peace in the region.

"Today we are also witnessing the return of the four RDF liason soldiers who had stayed in Goma to help us compile the report, these were the only remaining Rwandan troops on our territories and they are officially returning to Rwanda today" he said.

Asked if DRC troops will manage to deal with the remaining big numbers of FDRL in the region, General Numbi said that the government troops will do everything possible to see that peace is restored in the region.

"RDF has helped us to get a starting point and a foundation. The FARDC will continue the work that the joint forces have started, "he said, adding that" The success achieved in such a short time is an indicator that unity is a pillar and a foundation to success" he explained

"We are all tired of FDRL. Even resident are tired and want them to return back to Rwanda" he explained.

Asked why RDF had left DRC territory yet there were still a big number of negative forces in the region, RDF's Brigadier General Jerome Ngendahimana said that Rwanda's participation was a political motivated.

"As an army officer, I have no comment on that because our operation was based on a political decision by the two governments. Our future plans as far as the forceful disarmament of FDRL is concerned can be determined by both Heads of States" he told reporters

The Chief of General Staff Gen. James Kabarebe received the last group of RDF soldiers from DRC territory who also presented to him with a copy of the report denied reports.

He denied reports by BBC that FDRL had retaken most of the captured territories.

"I don't think it's true because I haven't received any reports from my DRC counterpart. I think I should have known it by now if the allegations were true" he said.

Congo-Kinshasa: UN Chief Praises Improved Rwanda - DRC Relations

Eugene Kwibuka
2 March 2009

Urugwiro Village — The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the renewal of relations between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

He made the remarks yesterday during his meeting with President Paul Kagame at Urugwiro Village as part of his nine-day trip to Africa.

The UN boss told a brief news conference that he congratulated the President for cooperating with the DRC government in efforts to pacify the Congolese eastern region.

Ki-Moon commended the recently concluded joint military operations between the two countries to hunt down rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and called for more mutual cooperation in ensuring regional security.

"I expressed to President Kagame my satisfaction at the step he has taken to open a new chapter in Rwanda-DRC relations," Ban said.

DRC allowed Rwandan troops to enter its territory in January to carry out joint operations aimed at ending the FDLR insurgency that has been accused of killing innocent Congolese civilians, raping, looting and causing different forms of insecurity in the region.

President Kagame told journalists in the news briefing together with Moon yesterday that the current cooperation between Rwanda and the DRC was not influenced by any external forces.

"There hasn't been any country involved in the dialogues between the two countries, they are entirely on our own," he said.

Rwandan troops pulled out of the DRC last Wednesday after helping their counterparts there in destroying positions of the FDLR, a rebel group with military bases in Congolese jungles whose members are accused of responsibility in Rwanda's 1994 Genocide against Tutsis.

Much as he congratulated the joint military operation for having been successful without creating a humanitarian crisis, the UN chief asked for more support from Rwanda and the DRC to help the UN mission in Congo (MONUC) provide protection to the Congolese people.

"We should be able to protect more lives and properties of the civilian population," he said.

The governments of Rwanda and DRC said that their joint military operation against the FDLR helped to repatriate thousands of Rwandan refugees back home and destroy FDLR's positions.

At least 5,000 most of whom former captives of the rebels, were repatriated during the month-long operations.

Rebels 'retake Congo positions'

Many of the FDLR rebels fled to Congo after the 1994 Rwandan genocide

Hutu rebels have retaken positions they lost in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, UN peacekeepers say.

The UN says it has reports that FDLR rebels captured several villages and a former military training school, days after Rwandan troops began to withdraw.

However, Congolese officials said the rebels made "hit-and-run" raids, denying it was a major regrouping.

Rwandan troops began withdrawing last Wednesday - five weeks after they crossed the border to attack the FDLR.

In January, the government in Kinshasa allowed thousands of Rwandan soldiers to enter eastern DR Congo to fight the remnants of the Rwandan Hutu militia.

Some of the FDLR rebels are accused of taking part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, before fleeing across the border into DR Congo.

In a separate development, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon - on a visit to Rwanda - said achieving peace peace in the volatile region depended on co-operation between the governments in Kinshasa and Kigali.

He said he welcomed a plan by Rwanda's President Paul Kagame for the establishment of full diplomatic relations with DR Congo, speaking of his hope for a "new chapter" in relations between the two neighbours.

Civilian fears

In eastern Dr Congo, however, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission said on Sunday he had reports that the FDLR rebels had retaken several positions in the area.

But Congolese Information Minister Lambert Mende Omalanga said the rebels were carrying out raids rather than moving back.

"We didn't hear report that they are retaking the places. What our reports are saying is that they are conducting hit-and-run operations," the minister told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

"They [the rebels] don't remain in a place. When they come they loot, they frighten people and they take what they want to take and they go back because our boys are around."

The latest reports about the FDLR attacks will inevitably raise fears among Congolese civilians that their armed forces are failing to stand up to the rebels, the BBC's Mark Doyle reports from eastern DR Congo.

The FDLR's presence in eastern DR Congo has always been seen as a major factor in the region's instability.

The Congolese and Rwandans launched a joint offensive against the FDLR in January.

Thousands of Rwandan troops were deployed in North Kivu but they are deeply unpopular because, along with Uganda, Rwanda occupied eastern DR Congo between 1998 and 2002.

On-and-off fighting involving the FDLR, the army and other militias has forced more than one million people in North Kivu to flee their homes since late 2006.

Northern fears

There are also fears that exactly the same scenario could take place in the north-eastern of the country, our correspondent says.

Ugandan troops entered the region late last year, with Kinshasa's permission, to help tackle another rebel group - the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

The rebels - who were chased out of Uganda - have been committing widespread massacres of Congolese civilians.

However, nationalist Congolese politicians in Kinshasa say the Ugandans should now leave because their job is done.

This is despite a widespread feeling among Congolese civilians in the region that the Ugandans should stay, our correspondent says.

War Against Rebels 'Not Over, Despite Troop Withdrawal'

2 March 2009

Kigali — The war against the rebel Forces démocratique pour la libération de Rwanda (FDLR), based in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), was not over, despite last week's withdrawal of Rwandan troops from the Congo's North Kivu province, officials said.

"We shall not rest, the fighting is still on," Rosemary Musemenali, Rwanda's Foreign Minister, said in the capital, Kigali.

The Rwandan troops' withdrawal came after nearly two months of joint military operations with the DRC against the FDLR, which is largely blamed for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Although thousands more FDLR rebels remain elusive, Musemenali said, improved political cooperation between Rwanda and the DRC had been instrumental in the battle against the group.

She added that although most FDLR combatants had been routed out of North Kivu, many of their sponsors and accomplices remained at large, especially in Europe and the US.


Olivier Hamuli, spokesman for the Rwanda-Congo military operations, said at least 5,000 Rwandans, mainly civilians, had been repatriated from eastern Congo since January. Most had been held hostage by the FDLR militias.

"The operations have greatly weakened the FDLR; they are now incapable of sustaining war," Hamuli said.

He said the FDLR rebels had been routed out of strongholds in mining areas such as Walikale and Masisi, both in North Kivu. Aid agencies have accused the FDLR of dealing in illegal mineral trading to finance their warfare.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that up to 50,000 Rwandans remained in exile since the genocide, most in eastern Congo where they have been assimilated into the local population.

Analysts said the recent military operation against the FDLR was surprising, since Rwanda and the DRC have had stormy political relations for nearly two decades. Rwandan military sources say continued cooperation could be a pointer to lasting peace in the troubled North Kivu province.

"It's a rare cooperation but we have no reason to doubt their [Congolese] commitment; in the past, you would expect the Kinshasa government to send in rescue helicopters for the FDLR thugs," a Rwandan military commander, who requested anonymity, said.


When operations against the FDLR intensified in February, the rebels turned on the locals in reprisal attacks, forcing thousands of Congolese to flee to neighbouring countries, according to Venessa Akello, UNHCR public relations officer in Uganda.

She said 7,364 refugees had entered Uganda from North Kivu since the operation against the FDLR began in January.

Jean Sayinzoga, chairman of the Rwanda Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission, said returnees were screened and ex-combatants separated from civilians for resettlement.

He said the ex-combatants first underwent rehabilitation at various centres in Rwanda's Northern and Western provinces to prepare them for a new life. Adults were separated from former child soldiers and both groups counselled, given skills and taught values for a new life, Sayinzoga added.

However, those accused of participating in the 1994 genocide were expected to face trail, which has prevented many FDLR combatants from returning.

"They can't get all of us, we run around in circles and then we will come back," Innocent Karega, FDLR spokesman, was quoted as saying recently.

This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the Pan-African News Wire

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