Tuesday, February 24, 2009

DR Congo: UN envoy tells Rwandan Hutu militia to leave Congolese soil

Source

The top United Nations official in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has again urged combatants fighting with a Rwandan militia group in the volatile North Kivu province of the DRC to put down their arms and return home.

The Special Representative for the Secretary-General, Alan Doss, insisted that the ethnic Hutu militia, the Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), join the voluntary disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, reintegration and rehabilitation (DDRRR) programme managed by the UN mission in the DRC, known by its French acronym MONUC.

“The FDLR have to understand that there''s no room for them on Congolese soil,” Mr. Doss said after a two-day visit to North Kivu, which ended yesterday, to assess the situation on the ground.

“Many thousands of civilian refugees have also taken the path of return with [UN High Commissioner for Refugees] UNHCR assistance. I urge the fighters who remain in the DRC for they follow their example and take the way back,” added Mr. Doss, who also heads the peacekeeping operation, MONUC.

Mr. Doss also visited the areas of fighting in North Kivu to assess the Government''s joint military offensive with Rwanda aimed at eradicating the FDLR from the region, in which MONUC provides logistics, transport and medical assistance.

Accompanied by Mohamed Boukkry, the new UNHCR Regional Representative, and General Bipin Rawat, Commander of MONUC''s North Kivu Brigade, Mr. Doss visited the town of Pinga, where UN peacekeepers have a base which coordinates with the Congolese military to protect the 10,000 residents and some 6,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) uprooted by the violence.

Mr. Doss told the media many FDLR fighters have chosen to join the DDRRR process in recent weeks and urged more to follow the example returning in “peace and dignity [to Rwanda] with their dependents.”

Located some 150 kilometres north of Goma, the capital of North Kivu, Pinga was in the heart of the one of the main FDLR strongholds and illustrates one of the major security challenges facing MONUC.

FDLR fighters, driven out by coalition forces, have returned a number of times to harass civilians, loot, rape and murder in retaliation for the military operation attempting to drive them out of the area.