The United Nations Security Council's deadline for the UN Peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO) and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) troops (FARDC) to launch military operations against Rwandan refugees in Eastern DRC has expired today, January 2, 2015. Based on the mandate, MONUSCO could launch military operations anytime, starting today. But, according to sources within MONUSCO, the DRC government and those close to SADC and ICGLR, what is on paper is not necessarily easy to implement. That is why, beginning Monday December 29, 2014, meetings among diplomats from the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), SADC, ICGLR, and DRC government officials, including top military leaders have been Held in Goma to devise a followup strategy. According to sources in Goma and within MONUSCO, three options are on the table:
- Option 1: Launch immediate military operations if FDLR troops , including all top commanders, do not disarm immediately and without conditions.
- option 2: Launch surgical operations to apprehend top FDLR military commanders, including the commanders sought by the International criminal court (ICC)
- option 3: Relaunch a new comprehensive peaceful demobilisation, disarmament, resettlement process based on a well thought out strategy
The three otions highlight the challenges faced by the option of military operations. Even during the meetings in Goma, clear dissentions have emerged, and three blocks have formed.
The first block, formed by UN, EU, UA, and USA envoys to the region wants the first option. Russell Feingold, the USA Special Envoy to the African Great Lakes did not wait for the meetings in Goma to conclude to make his choice known. In a statement to the media, sent on December 29 and then reiterated on December 31, 2014, Russel Feingold said: "We cannot continue to wait for the FDLR to voluntarily surrender.... military action must be undertaken to pressure the FDLR to lay down its arms...I am confident that significant planning has been undertaken with regards to military action to be taken in the near future.” Some ICGLR members, especially Angola, Uganda, and Rwanda have publicly wholeheartdily embraced USA Envoy's position. However, some sources say it is rather the other way around.
On December 31, 2014, the outgoing UN Secretary General Deputy Special Envoy to DRC, Moustapha Soumaré, evoked the contingency plan to protect civilians if and when military operations would be launched. However, given that he is moving to South Sudan anytime soon, his statements appeared rather evasive, on what will be done and when, simply saying that his " departure date remains unknown, and hence [he] will make sure, before [he goes], that the priorities would align with both MONUSCO's and UN Security council mendate."
The surgical operations against top commanders and only commanders sought by the International Criminal Court appear to be supported by some MONUSCO, SADC, and DRC officials. According to the sources, this option would not only fulfill the most critical provision of the UN Security council mendate, but would also avoid potential civilian casualties, that would constitute a heavy burden and a négative legacy for ONUSCO.
The defenders of the option also point to the fact that MONUSCO and FARDC are still conducting military operations to avert or at least stop the large scale massacres of civilians, in the Beni areas, by alleged Ugandan ADF-NALU rebels. On Friday, January 2, 2015, MONUSCO and FARDC launched thé second phase of military operations against the ADF-NALU in Beni areas. Hence, those who lean towards the option argue that there are not enough troops to both fight ADF-NALU and launch military operations against Rwandan refugees.
SADC, especially Tanzania and South Africa and some European Union members want the process to be reevaluated fist, and possibly relaunched with a new strategy. Hence, they are proposing a followup meeting in mid-January 2015.
DRC Government Under Pressure to Launch Miitary Operations
Sources with the DRC government have told AfroAmerica Network that President Joseph Kabila, though opposed to the military operations against Rwandan refugees, may soon change his mind. The change would come from two considenations: the pressure from the United Nations Security Council and internal politics. Sources within Joseph Kabila's entourage said that over the week-end, the UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon made multiple telephone calls to Joseph Kabila's aides, including Ambassador Seraphin Ngwej and Presidential Security Adviser Colonel Jean Claude Yav, to highlight the UN Security Council mendate of launching military operations. President Joseph Kabila, who was vacationing in Katanga, was immediately informed and promised to give his final decision when he returns.
At the same time, other sources in Kinshasa say that Joseph Kabila, faced with growing internal political opposition and challenges and potential civilian uprising, may want a war to shift the growing popular discontent away from the inflamatory rhetorics among government officials and political oposition leaders.
Rwandan Governemnt Readies M23 Rebels
Several sources say that Rwanda government leaders do not believe that military operations by MONUSCO and FARDC will happen, at least as advocated. They point to the fact that since August 2014, Rwandan military leaders have been training and infiltrating M23 rebels into DRC.
According to civilians in Rutshuru territory, the infiltrations by M23 rebels from Rwanda have intensified since late November 2014.
Eary December 2014, civilians and park rangers in the Virunga park observed a large movement of troops crossing into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in a group of around 100 or less men. On November 30th, 2014 hundreds of heavily armed troops were seen by park rangers passing by the station of Mutsora, in the Virunga park. On the same day, civilians saw a group of around 100 armed troops entering the Ruwenzori mountains.
Sources in the area told AfroAmerica Network in early December 2014 (See here) that the commander of these men tried to recruit some Congolese individuals by phone, affirming that the troops under his command were creating a junction with another group of troops already established in the forests of Bafaswende, in Northeast of Kisangani, since late Summer 2014.
The sources affirm that the heavily armed troops were composed of former M23, demobilized former Rwandan rebels, and Mai-Mai Cheka, under the command of Rwandan Defense Forces officers.
Also, in November and early December 2014, civilians saw several hundreds of unidentified troops crossing the Rwandan border and heading further South West, towards Masisi. They alerted FARDC troops who tried to stop them but were fired at by Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) (see here)he Kibaya cell, Busasamana Sector in Rubavu district. On December 11, 2014, FARDC troops fired again on infiltrator, believed to be ex-M23 rebels, crossing the border, this prompted the Rwandan Defense Forces to issue a statement, through Rwanda's Defense and Military Spokesperson, Brig Gen Joseph Nzabamwita, saying that "The FARDC forces deployed at Buhumba Groupement, Bukumu Chefferie, Nyiragongo Zone, fired a launcher 7 rocket projectile on Rwandan territory, at Bereshi village, Hehu cell, Bugeshi Sector in Rubavu District"
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