The New Times (Kigali)

31 January 2012

Rwanda: U.S., Nation Plot to Rout Weakened FDLR

Strategies to wipe out remnants of a weakened FDLR militia now scattered and on the run towards the northern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were part of discussions between the visiting new US envoy to the Great Lakes, Barrie Walkley, and Defence Minister, Gen. James Kabarebe, yesterday.

Ambassador Walkley, who is making his maiden trip to the region, noted that cross-border and regional issues, including Uganda's notorious Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), are his responsibility.

"The ambassadors for individual countries in this region will take care of the bilateral relations. I will take care and concern myself with the regional applications. Such issues as FDLR, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), conflict minerals, security sector reform, the problems with armed groups in the region and violence against women. Issues of that sort will be my responsibility," Ambassador Walkley told reporters after the meeting.

Military and Defense Spokesperson, Col. Joseph Nzabamwita, who also attended the closed session further stated: "The envoy was briefed on the Joint Military Operations conducted by FARDC and RDF and how the intelligence-led operations dealt a severe blow to FDLR, resulting into deaths of their senior commanders and are now scattered fleeing to the northern part of the Kivu Province."

"This, together with other Demobilisation and Repatriation strategies, has led to a surge in repatriations to Rwanda by FDLR fighters".

Col. Nzabamwita was not categorical whether the new development - FDLR's flight northwards - could lead to a possible alliance between FDLR and elements of Uganda's notorious Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) militia based further in the north of the DRC, but it is clear that such an alliance would cause more mayhem.

Amb. Walkley told reporters that: "We had a chance to discuss many issues that are part of my portfolio. We spent time discussing the armed groups particularly the threat constantly caused by the FDLR".

He noted that in the last three months alone, around 400 FDLR combatants returned home.

"We are talking of military and non military civil activities against them. This is combined by a joint military punch that has scattered the FDLR who are now on the run. They are leaving their areas of operation in Walikale, in North Kivu, and are going further north to Lubelo and Beni areas," the army spokesman noted.

Early this month, the FDLR Chief of Staff, Gen. Leodomir Mugaragu, was killed along with over 20 of his commanders.

The LRA, on the other hand, continues to commit atrocities across the Central African Republic, the DRC, and South Sudan that have a disproportionate impact on regional security.

Past and present joint operations mounted by the Rwandan and Congolese armies have weakened the FDLR and the US government is currently collaborating with regional armies to wipe out the LRA.

Just last year, US President Barack Obama authorised the deployment, to Uganda, of about 100 combat-equipped U.S. forces to help regional forces flush out the LRA from the battlefield.

The US troops are being deployed in Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the DRC to further U.S. national security interests and foreign policy and contribute towards counter-LRA efforts in the wider region.

The USA has in the past supported regional countries in their military strategy against FDLR and other negative armed groups, principally through the Joint Intelligence Fusion Cell and the Tripartite Plus Mechanism.

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