Noting that more than 12,000 foreign militia members have been repatriated from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and about the same number remain, the head of the United Nations mission said the programme has reached its limits and the mission is increasingly joining with the DRC army to put pressure on those staying behind.
"At present, our programme is and remains a programme of voluntary repatriation. We have repatriated on that programme somewhat more than 12,000 militia, of whom about two-thirds are Rwandans, that is, the ex-Rwandan army and the Interahamwe, many of whom were involved in the genocide of 1994," the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC), William Lacy Swing, said.
"We have come up against the limitations of that programme in the last year, however, we are increasingly doing joint operations with the Congolese army to put pressure on these groups to enter our programme and to return to Rwanda," he added.
Another 1,500 to 2,000 Ugandan elements are based in North Kivu province and a Burundian Palipehutu-FNL element moves back and forth across the border in South Kivu, he said. "So, we will be using an increasing combination of political, military and legal pressure, including the likelihood of sanctions by the Member States of the 'Tripartite Plus Commission," Mr. Swing said.
The Tripartite Plus Commission comprises the DRC, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, with the UN, African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU) as observers and the United States as facilitator.
Some 12,000 to 15,000 foreign ex-combatants are left in the DRC and, together with their family members, the total to be repatriated may be 30,000, Mr. Swing said, adding, "That's a lot of people."
"We have the wherewithal to help these people to go home if they come into our programme. We have set up six transit sites on the Congolese side of the border in North and South Kivu. The Rwandans themselves have added three demobilization centres to the two that already existed. So, on both sides of the border, we are ready to take these people home, and we're just waiting for them to come," he said.