Rwandan rebels say more to surrender in DRC

2014-06-06 10:08
File, AFP

File, AFP

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Kinshasa - A second wave of Rwandan rebels from a group linked to the 1994 genocide in their homeland will turn themselves in on 9 June in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a leader of the group said on Thursday.

The Hutu rebels are members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) which includes remnants of the militia, now based in the DRC, that carried out the genocide of at least 800 000 ethnic Tutsis, according to the United Nations.

More than 100 rebels turned themselves in on Friday in the DRC's North Kivu province, handing over their weapons at a school. North Kivu's governor said they would now be given a choice between returning to Rwanda or seeking asylum in the DRC.

Wilson Irategeka, interim executive secretary of the FDLR, said there would now be "more ceremonies" in which rebels will surrender.

"The next one will be on June 9 in Kigogo in South Kivu. It is a guaranteed date," he told AFP, without indicating how many rebels would hand themselves in.

The FDLR - whose fighters have been refugees in the east of the DRC since 1994 - is today much weakened, numbering 1 500 combatants according to the UN, although the Rwandan government gives a figure of 4 000.

The rebels are scattered across Kivu, where they have been accused of widespread violence and rights abuses.

Political struggle

Human Rights Watch has documented vicious attacks against civilians by the FDLR in which dozens of women, children and the elderly have been hacked to death with machetes.

In April the FDLR said it wanted to lay down its arms and "devote itself to the political struggle" in Rwanda, which has refused any dialogue with the group.

None of the FDLR's leaders sought by courts in the region or internationally have handed themselves over.

"We have given up our arms, we have given up our fighters... we have even given up our superior officers. We want the international community to support us in starting dialogue with Kigali," said Irategeka.

But UN, African Union and European Union officials in the region are sceptical, saying on Sunday that those who had handed themselves in were "an insignificant number of low-ranking combatants".

In a joint statement, they urged the "further and complete surrender of all FDLR combatants and senior leaders in the coming days".

Irategeka attempted to appease these concerns, saying: "It is a process. The others will come. Even the chiefs. What are they going to stay and do there?"

The Congolese government hopes that 1 400 rebels will have surrendered by the end of June.

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Read more on:    drc  |  rwanda  |  east africa  |  central africa  |  1994 rwandan genocide
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