DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO – The army of the Democratic Republic of Congo has announced that it wants to arrest and punish “any soldier” in contact with militiamen of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), citing “zero tolerance” for offenders.
The FDLR is an armed group created by former senior officials of the genocide of the Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994, refugees in eastern DRC after their debacle the same year.
The group has been under sanction by the United Nations Security Council since 2012. Its fighters are accused of numerous murders, mutilations, rapes, forced population displacements, and recruitment of children.
The FARDC (Armed Forces of the DRC) have been accused since mid-2022 of collaborating with the FDLR, mainly Hutu, to stem the advance of the M23 rebels, led by Tutsi, in the province of North Kivu.
In a video statement released Tuesday evening, the spokesperson for the Congolese army, General Sylvain Ekenge, proclaimed a “strict and unfailing ban” for all soldiers, “regardless of their rank”, from “tying or to maintain any contact” with FDLR militiamen. “Any offender” will be “arrested and will suffer the rigor of the law,” he declared.
According to independent UN experts, Congolese soldiers have cooperated with FDLR fighters against the M23 since the return of the rebellion at the end of 2021. It has since seized entire swaths of North Kivu, a province bordering Rwanda and Uganda, causing, according to the UN, the flight of more than a million people.
The M23 is supported in men and weapons by Rwanda, according to UN experts. On numerous occasions, the Rwandan government has denounced the collaboration between the FARDC and the FDLR, which it describes as a threat to its security.
At the end of October, an AFP team witnessed collaborations between Congolese soldiers and FDLR fighters in the town of Bambo in North Kivu, as the M23 attacked the town.
The Congolese army’s statement prohibiting cooperation with the FDLR follows a recent visit to the DRC and Rwanda by the head of American intelligence, Avril Haines.
The White House said Tuesday it had secured a promise from the leaders of both countries to de-escalate tensions.
Africanews with AFP