The New Times (Kigali)

4 January 2013

Congo-Kinshasa: DRC Army Allies With FDLR - M23

Photo: UNHCR
Displaced (file photo).

The Democratic Republic of Congo has continued to turn a blind eye to the plight of the Congolese citizens, by ignoring the atrocities committed by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), it has emerged.

Speaking at a press briefing yesterday in Bunagana, the head of M23 rebel group Jean-Marie Runiga accused the Kinshasa government of deliberately delaying the Kampala peace talks by not signing the ceasefire and acquiring military reinforcement from FDLR.

The Congo based rebel group is made up of elements responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, in which more than one million lives were lost.

"While we are committed to seeking a peaceful resolution to the crisis in DRC, President Joseph Kabila is actively supporting and deploying FDLR on all frontlines. This is unacceptable and violates the terms of agreement under which we agreed to pull out of Goma. The Congolese Army (FARDC) has formed a military coalition with the FDLR and other militia groups in eastern DRC. They are now ready to be deployed," Runiga said, adding that the FDLR are already operating in Goma in the blanket cover of the 41st Battalion of FARDC commandos.

M23 captured Goma late last year but pulled out after the Kinshasa government agreed to hold talks with them.

Part of what was agreed was for FARDC to deploy one Battalion in Goma. However, according to Runiga, the 41st battalion which was deployed has since brought in other militias from the FDLR and Mai Mai.

Reports indicate that in Goma, in an area known as Mudja, a battalion of the 802nd regiment belonging to FARDC is operating there in partnership with another battalion of FDLR and the militias operate under several other FARDC battalions around Goma in the areas of Rusayo and Kanyati.

In the outskirts of Goma, in Tongo a FARDC commando regiment commanded by a Col Ngunz Herod and battalion 812th regiment commanded by Col. Mudahunga operate closely with the FDLR militias.

According to Rugina, other FARDC battalions that have since gained strength as a result of reinforcement from FDLR include 805th regiment commanded by Lt. Col. Alexis Munyakazi located at the entrance of Vitshumbi which neighbours Goma and the 42nd commando battalion commanded by Lt. Col. Mamadou.

In the areas of Ishasha, Nyamilima and Kisharu, the 809th regiment commanded by Colonel Thierry Ilunga has received military reinforcement from FDLR and Mai-Mai Shetani.

Currently, there is an FDLR battalion commanded by Lt. Col. Ezra Kalebu operating in areas of Kibirizi Kishishi, Bambo.

Other FDLR forces are deployed in communities of Mubambiro, Sake, Kiroche, Ishasha and Minova.

Runiga further accused the FARDC of deploying its combat aircrafts to spy on M23 military bases at night- an act he dubbed as, 'provocation against our forces.'

At the same press briefing, Runiga accused the Kinshasa government of delaying the signing of the ceasefire agreement and warned that his representatives would pull out of the talks if the government does not sign.

"If Kabila's people do not sign the ceasefire, we shall ask our delegation to pull out of the talks and return from Kampala," he said.

Runiga added that; "We are not a negative force and don't nurture any balkanisation plans. We don't serve any foreigners' interests. M23 is a force that is committed to peace."

He said DRC must forthwith stop "reinforcing its ranks with FDLR especially in restricted areas."

He added: "If FARDC (Congolese troops) attack our positions, we shall defend ourselves, pursue them until we liberate this country."

Runiga said M23 picked arms due to Kinshasha's failure to extend social services such as hospitals and schools and road infrastructure to Eastern Congo.

He also decried FARDC perpetual harassment of civilians in Goma who are suspected of being sympathetic to the M23 cause.

Commenting on the recent sanctions by the UN Security Council against him, Runiga said that the Security Council did not have proof and the rebels were not given a chance to defend themselves.

"M23 has been asking for dialogue and ceasefire, but we are being paid by sanctions. We respect the UN, but it is better they go for an investigation because we don't trust NGOs which give them these reports," he said.

Runiga said that M23 promises peace in the New Year as long as the Congolese government desists from what he called 'propagating rumors.'

He said that resumption of talks today is significant because it will be a national holiday when Congolese commemorate those who died for their independence.

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InFocus

Congo Govt and Rebels to Resume Talks

Displaced (file photo).

The M23 rebels group have agreed to continue peace talks with government, but have set conditions for the meeting. Read more »