The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) today dismissed several rumours related to the presence of an armed group in the country's east.
In a news release, the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) stated that it had sent a fact-checking team to the areas of Mpati, Nyange and Bibwe, located in the Masisi territory in the eastern province of North Kivu, to look into claims that up to 4,000 fighters belonging to the armed group known as the Forces Démocratiques de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR), were there, amongst other rumours.
Made up primarily of ethnic Hutu fighters linked to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the FDLR has been active since late 1994, mainly in the eastern DRC.
Operating between 21-24 December last year, the evaluation team was composed of members of MONUSCO's brigade in North Kivu, as well as staff dealing with disarmament, demobilization, repatriation and reintegration issues.
At the end of the fact-checking mission, the team was able to declare that several rumours were baseless. These included the one that claimed that 4,000 FDLR fighters and their families had arrived in the location of Kazibake; another which asserted the presence of two white helicopters without UN signage in the area between Nyange and Lwama on 13 December; a rumour which claimed that a new FDLR commander named 'Bakota' had arrived in Kivuye; and a rumour that weapons and munitions were being supplied to the FDLR.
However, according to MONUSCO, the team did confirm the presence of FDLR forces in several places and villages in the Bashali and Mpati areas. It noted that these fighters had been in these locations since April 2012, as part of their efforts to avoid the advance of another armed group, the Mai Mai Rahiya Mutomboki.
The fact-checking team also confirmed that the FDLR and other groups are present in the Bibwe-Kitso-Nyange area, leading to concerns over the protection of the civilian population there as these groups are said to be demanding illegal taxes and making the agricultural production cycle more difficult.
MONUSCO has urged national and local authorities to take appropriate measures to help these civilians. Its peacekeepers have previously conducted joint operations with the DRC national army to limit the impact of such armed groups, including the FDLR.
According to the peacekeeping mission's estimates, there are no more than a few hundred FDLR fighters present in the region.
MONUSCO has 6,700 and 4,000 troops in the provinces of North and South Kivu, respectively. North Kivu alone is four times the size of Belgium.