The United Nations says a group of 150 ethnic Hutu fighters and their dependents who had agreed to be demobilised and repatriated to Rwanda have disappeared from a camp in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
After their voluntary disarmament, the group was cantoned under the care of a church organisation in Kasiki, some 200 kilometres north of Goma, the capital of strife-torn North Kivu province, and were supposed to start their journey home on 8 February assisted by the UN peacekeeping mission, known by its French acronym MONUC.
However, this past Sunday, the MONUC disarmament and reintegration team that was supposed to help the group get to Goma and from there to Rwanda arrived at their cantonment site to find that it had been abandoned in haste during the night.
The UN News Centre says the team stayed in the region in an attempt to locate the group and persuade them to make good on their previously stated plans.
In a statement, the mission urged them and other groups of Rwandan ex-combatants and their dependents to participate in the disarmament and repatriation process, which is crucial to end fighting in the eastern DRC.
“[MONUC] reminds all Rwandan combatants living on Congolese soil that the doors remain open wide to welcome them and facilitate their disarmament and their voluntary return to their country of origin in dignity,” the statement said, providing a phone number and other ways of contacting the mission.
The missing ex-combatants, who were formally disarmed by MONUC last July, were associated with two dissident factions of the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR), which has been the target of a joint military operation conducted by Rwanda and the DRC.