A United Nations assessment team has succeeded in restarting the disarmament and integration of some ethnic fighters into the national army in strife-torn eastern DRC after they rejected the process or set preconditions.
The discussions led the Mai Mai Yakutumba to drop some preconditions, ironed out misunderstanding and resulted in the release by both the Yakutumba and another armed group, Forces républicaines fédéralistes (FRF), of more than 450 combatants for integration, according to MONUC.
The Mission said the assessment was motivated by the reservations of some armed ethnic groups about disarming at a time of robust military operations by the UN and the national army against Rwandan Hutu rebel Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) in the Kivu provinces.
“The issues of function and rank, as a precondition posed by armed groups for their integration, are being sorted out gradually, which explains the over-enthusiasm shown by the ex-combatants for their integration,” Major-General Dieudonné Amuli, a UN military coordinator said, noting that more combatants continue to arrive for integration.
The delegation, led by the new MONUC Coordinator for eastern DRC, Christian Manahl, met with local civilian and military actors as well as representatives of the Mai Mai Yakutumba, a signatory to peace accords on reintegration signed earlier this year with several rebel groups.
The Yakutumba claimed credit for leading military operations against the FDLR in the Fizi region of South Kivu, which was previously under its control.
Maj.-Gen. Amuli said that combatants with weapons in North and South Kivu are immediately integrated into local units, while those without weapons are dispatched to a MONUC training centre for standard integration.
The Mai Mai Yakutumba armed group requested MONUC’s assistance to transform into a political party and the Mission insisted on the importance of reconciliation between communities. Manahl highlighted that MONUC was ready to help as far as possible to help resolve inter-community tensions.
While much of the DRC has returned to relative calm after years of civil war, fighting has continued in the east, where an estimated 1.7 million people remain displaced in the provinces of North and South Kivu, with more than 400 000 persons having fled their homes since January.
Pic: Congolese Army