The second round of disarmament for the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) called for by both the UN and the Southern African Democratic Community (SADC) did not meet expectations with only 67 weapons handed in and 151 combatants voluntarily surrendering.
Friday’s deadline brings to 337 the number of FDLR combatants who have voluntarily disarmed handing in 234 weapons since May last year.
South African President Jacob Zuma, in his capacity as chair of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation, said the FDLR had not complied “in full” with conditions imposed by SADC and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).
The UN said the six month grace period for the full and unconditional surrender of the FDLR had now expired.
“The UN and its partners urge all necessary measures be taken to disarm the rebels who have a long history of heinous crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),” a joint statement issued by UN Special Representative in the DRC, Martin Kobler, and ICGLR said.
“Leaders and members of FDLR, who were among the perpetrators of the 1994 Rwanda genocide, were given six months to voluntarily surrender. Instead, the period has been used to continue to commit human rights abuses against innocent people in eastern DRC, recruit combatants and champion its illegitimate political agenda.
“Ending the threat of the FDLR is not just a DRC responsibility; it is a regional and international responsibility. We all have a deep commitment to ensuring accountability for those responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide,” the statement said adding the military option was the only one now open to the region and the international community.
The DRC government and the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, including its Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), will now take “all necessary measures” to disarm the FDLR.
South Africa, via 16 Squadron and 5 SA Infantry Battalion of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), are part and parcel of the FIB and have been praised for contributions made in driving M23 from eastern DRC. The Rooivalk combat support helicopter has ably demonstrated its capabilities in its first ever combat theatre deployment.
Zuma appealed to FDLR leadership and “all remaining combatants to immediately and unconditionally present themselves for disarmament”. The South African president added the regional body remained committed to the internationally mandated objective of neutralising all negative forces operating in DRC and “remains ready to play its fullest part in this regard”.
An SADC heads of government summit in Angola later this month will seek a common approach what Zuma termed, decisive progress, on the FDLR surrender.