Nairobi — Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have reached an agreement that will see the latter disarm and expel genocidal forces, grouped in what is known as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
The deal was reached on Friday between Foreign Affairs ministers from the two neighbours in Nairobi, Kenya, at a ceremony that was facilitated by the UN and witnessed by the US and the European Union.
'The Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo commits to launch military operations, as a matter of urgency, to dismantle the ex-FAR/Interahamwe as a genocidal military organisation in the DRC,' a joint communiqué signed by among others, Rwanda's Foreign Affairs minister Dr Charles Murigande and Congolese State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Antipas Mbusa Nyamwisi, reads in part.
DRC agreed to prepare a detailed plan to disarm the militia, while the UN Mission in Congo (Monuc) agreed to 'provide support to the planning and subsequent implementation consistent with its mandate and capacities.'
The plan will be shared with the Rwandan government by December 1, the communiqué added.
Estimated at over 10,000 fighters, FDLR - which is largely composed of remnants of the Rwandan former armed forces (FAR) and Interahamwe militia - has been at the heart of bloody conflicts in the region, including two full-scale wars involving seven countries, and specifically bad blood between Kigali and Kinshasa for years now.
The militia crossed to DRC after participating in a three-month genocide that culminated into the death of at least one million people, mostly Tutsis, in 1994.
Kinshasa also agreed to 'identify and commit the necessary resources to implement the military components of the plan'.
The plan, according to the statement, shall include 'reactivation and streamlining, in parallel with military pressure, existing efforts to sensitise ex-FAR/Interahamwe elements to disarm and repatriate to Rwanda.'
The agreement also provides for 'temporary relocation of disarmed ex-FAR/Interahamwe elements to reception centres/cantonment sites in DRC; registration by Monuc under the DDRRR procedures and repatriation of those who choose to return to Rwanda.'
Under the planned disarmament plan, DRC - with the help of relevant international organisations - agreed to move disarmed ex-FAR/Interahamwe who do not wish to return to Rwanda and who are not wanted for Genocide by Rwandan justice or the International Criminal tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), away from the border until their condition is normalised.
The meeting came after Rwanda reacted to DRC's plan to disarm FDLR, which Kigali said was lacking, and for which it provided a counter-proposal.
Rwanda committed itself to 'take all necessary measures to seal its border to prevent the entry into or exit from its territory of members of any armed group, renegade militia leaders, (General Laurent) Nkunda's group in particular, and prevent any form of support - military, material or human - being provided to any armed group in the DRC.'
Kigali also agreed to share with Kinshasa and Monuc a list of Genocide suspects, where as DRC committed itself to arrest and hand over to ICTR or Rwanda those indicted for Genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.
They two states also agreed to refrain from statements in support of any armed group against each other.
"Both countries agreed to meet in Nairobi as a way of reaching an agreement on the disarmament plan.
We feel, if honoured, the agreement will help deal with the problem that has been at the centre of insecurity in the region," President Paul Kagame's Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region, Ambassador Richard Sezibera, said yesterday.
And asked if he thought the development demonstrated DRC's commitment to addressing the FDLR issue, Dr Sezibera said: "There is a renewed commitment not only on the part of Congo, but also on the side of those who witnessed the agreement.
Monuc was asked to be more involved in (military activities) against FDLR, which was previously not the case."
The two countries also agreed to 'fully commit (themselves) to prevent the direct and indirect support - political, material or human - to any national and foreign armed group operating in the DRC.'
They also agreed to share information and address issues of common concern through existing mechanism, in particular the Joint Verification Mechanism (JVM) and the Tripartite Plus Commission.
The pact also binds both countries to 'immediately assign the members to the JVT in Goma, Bukavu (in DRC), Gisenyi and Cyangugu in Rwanda.
Both countries also committed themselves to establish strict border controls and prevent illicit cross-border movement of combatants or recruits, arms, military material, food or medical support for any armed groups.
They further agreed to refrain from aiding and abetting any armed group.
The pact also calls upon all Congolese associated with the ex-FAR/Interahamwe to 'leave the group immediately and definitely.'
International partners were also called upon to mobilise support to help implement the agreement, and to provide humanitarian assistance to civilians that are likely to be affected by the planned military operations.
The signatories also urged the Security Council to pass a resolution establishing sanctions against Ex-FAR/Interahamwe and called upon member states to 'prevent all fundraising, mobilisation or propaganda activities of the ex-FAR/Interahamwe.'
Other signatories to the bilateral meeting are the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affaires, Haile Menkerios, the EU Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region, Roeland van de Geer, and the US Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary Jendayi Frazer for the Conflict Resolution Department of State, Timothy Shortley.