Sy Koumbo / MONUC
In a communiqué published Sunday, military authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo called for Rwandan combatants of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) « to adhere to the Nairobi process without delay » or face tougher action by the Congolese army against them.
There are an estimated 6,000 FDLR combatants present on DRC soil and their return to Rwanda would help create the conditions for a return to security and stability in eastern DRC and in the wider Great Lakes region.
Under the Nairobi process, which was agreed 9 November 2007 between the governments of DRC and Rwanda, these illegal combatants are to be disarmed and repatriated to their country, using sensitisation campaigns coupled military with pressure.
In that context, for some months now the DRC army's high command, with the support of MONUC, has deployed 11 of its battalions with the aim of restoring State authority and exerting pressure on these illegal groups.
In tandem with military pressure, Disarmament, Demobilisation, Repatriation, Reintegration and Resettlement (DDRRR) teams are conducting sensitisation activities on the ground. These activities include direct contacts with FDLR leaders in North and South Kivu to sensitise them on the Nairobi Communiqué and the Kisangani roadmap (which provides for the voluntary return of combatants to Rwanda or the possibility of their relocation outside of the two Kivus)
The results of these combined actions have become visible in the territories of Walikale, Kitutu and Pinga in North Kivu, and also in the areas of Shabunda and Mwenga, and along the Walungu-Bukavu road link axis in South Kivu.
In the period between January and the beginning of September 2008, more than 1,200 FDLR combatants and their dependents have been voluntarily repatriated to Rwanda. Had it not been for the ongoing hostilities in North Kivu since 28 August, "the Congolese party would have by now made significant progress in implementing the Nairobi Communiqué," the FARDC statement said.
According to MONUC spokesman Michel Bonnardeaux, the demobilisation and repatriation of Rwandan combatants has been a key element of the UN Mission's mandate since 2002. « We are the first peacekeeping mission with the mandate to train battalions of the national army in order resolve the problem regarding the presence of foreign combatants on Congolese soil. Our teams are doing the necessary sensitisation work, notably with the aid of FM radio on the ground and broadcasts in Kinya-rwanda. We have already repatriated more than 10,000 combatants and their dependents to Rwanda and neighbouring countries, » he said.
Combatants who voluntarily surrender are disarmed, registered and transported by MONUC to the Rwandan border where they are handed over to Rwanda's demobilisation commission. They are then taken to an orientation camp where they are informed about the possibilities offered to them for their reinsertion. They are provided with reinsertion kits, while some are encouraged to launch businesses which, in turn, receive financial support and other aid. This whole process is carried out with the support of the international community.