The arrival of some 2,000 Rwandan soldiers in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to help the Army disarm Rwandan Hutu rebels of the Forces démocratique pour la libération du Rwanda (FDLR) has prompted fears of a new wave of civilian suffering. Below are some reactions to the development.
MONUC, the UN Mission in DRC
“The humanitarian community is deeply worried by the new deployment of troops in the areas of Goma and Rutshuru… This heightened military presence gives rise to fears of a new humanitarian crisis just as the ceasefire was allowing people to gradually return home and giving humanitarians easier access to several areas.”
Jean-Paul Dietrich, MONUC military spokesman
“The FDLR are in Masisi but the Rwandans have instead gone to Rutshuru. We don’t really know what they are doing there because our access has been blocked.”
Lambert Mende, DRC government spokesman
“I don’t think the Rwandan soldiers need humanitarian workers in order to deploy, unless the humanitarian workers want to conduct espionage.”
UN Children’s Fund briefing
“Immediate consequences [are] restricted access to Rutshuru territory and withdrawal of most humanitarian actors from their main intervention zones in Masisi and Rutshuru.
Possible consequences in case of military operations:
- Massive population displacement. A contingency plan (July 2008) anticipates for 350,000 newly displaced persons in North Kivu during the first phase of a military operation; 300,000 persons in the province of South Kivu.
- Current humanitarian interventions for approximately one million persons will be suspended or hampered by the lack of access and permanent displacement of populations.
- The reaction of FDLR might entail exactions on the population and social structures and looting.
- Taking into account that the FDLR have been established in the area for 15 years, their relationship with the population is important. At the same time, the coalition is unlikely to respect the distinction between combatants and non-combatants.
- The reaction of the population with regard to the presence of the Rwandan army is as yet unknown, but could turn negatively toward the government.”
Gérard Prunier, historian and author
"Definitely, yes [this is welcome for the people of the Kivus and the DRC peace process]. These guys were coming anyway in disguised form. So they might as well come openly ... The new deal is a direct deal between [Rwandan and DRC presidents] [Paul] Kagame and [Joseph] Kabila and they are playing with [rebel leader] Bosco Ntaganda. Now Ntaganda is of course also a criminal (but who isn't in those parts?) But he is trying to parley his new role as a 'peacemaker' (don't laugh) into a respite from an International Criminal Court war crimes indictment. If both Kabila and Kagame want to fish him out, they can try him in some [sham] court that will declare him innocent for the price of his services.
"The present dispensation might sideline [rival rebel leader Laurent] Nkunda and enable the real heavy duty RPF [Rwandan army] boys to hit the FDLR with the approval of Kinshasa, i.e. without Kinshasa playing a double game of saying, yes we want the FDLR dead and then helping them discreetly. In any case, the DRC army is useless and they'll just have token roles while the RPF does the real job .
"All in all it is a good start. But now let's see how it will end. So many things have gone awry before!"
Justin Bitakwira, Member of Parliament from South Kivu
“The Rwandan government and its offshoot RCD-Goma had already occupied Congo for eight years and we never heard of a single clash between the Rwandan army and the FDLR. On the contrary, all the coltan and cassiterite exploited by the FDLR is sold in Rwanda. So it’s a [complete] contradiction.”
A media analyst in Kinshasa
“This operation will finally persuade the FDLR to return to Rwanda after 15 years of hesitation. It will put an end to the illicit exploitation of the region’s natural resources and allow the Congolese state to have control over them.”
Enock Ruberangabo, president of the Banyamulenge community
“The community wants the FDLR and all Rwandan refugees, who have become, rightly or wrongly, the key to the tension between our countries, to return home. To do so by force is not desirable because experience has taught us that not only are results slow in coming but that matters are made worse. There is a need to plan how to ensure the security of the populations of North and South Kivu before any military operation against the FDLR. Any other way would further endanger security.”
Jean Sekabuhoro, president of the North Kivu Hutu communities
“[We] condemn this treason and reserve the right to use all means at our disposal to scupper this diabolical plan whose clear aim is to bring about the Balkanisation of the country.”
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions