Global perspective Human stories

Notorious Congolese militia leader begins disarmament but demands amnesty – UN

Notorious Congolese militia leader begins disarmament but demands amnesty – UN

Peter Karim at disarmament site
In a hopeful development towards peace in the war-torn northeastern Ituri province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the notorious leader of the a local militia group has ordered the surrender and disarmament of 170 of his troops – including numerous children – while demanding amnesty, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the country, known as MONUC, announced today.

“I want peace, as does the DRC Government,” Peter Karim, commander of the Front des Nationalistes and Intégrationnistes (FNI), told MONUC in a rare interview.

However, he stated that neither he nor his senior deputies would surrender without a definite official pardon. “If an amnesty was guaranteed for us, I would be willing to surrender tomorrow.”

Of the 170 troops that laid down their arms under the supervision of UN blue helmets yesterday, MONUC Bunia’s Child Protection division and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) ascertained that 42 are children. These children will be looked after at a special camp where they will be identified before the UN agencies try to reunite them with their families.

The remaining adult troops were taken to by a Government-run disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, reintegration and reinsertion camp.

This week’s surrender was made possible in large part by MONUC, which facilitated three weeks of negotiations with Mr. Karim.

The disarmament of the troops is “a good sign, but we have not yet solved the problem,” said MONUC Bunia Political Affairs officer Jacob Mogeni. “The issue of Peter Karim’s demands for amnesty as a condition of surrender is critical, but it’s the responsibility of the DRC Government to decide.”

Mr. Mogeni expressed optimism that the Government is resolute in ending the conflict and added that he anticipates further negotiations.

For his part, Mr. Karim also told MONUC that the FNI has no plans to militarily engage the Armed Forces of DRC (FARDC), which has weakened his group significantly through encirclement and cutting off supply lines.

MONUC has overseen the DRC’s transition from a six-year civil war – widely considered the most lethal conflict in the world since World War II – costing four million lives, to gradual stabilization, culminating in the first democratic elections in over four decades last year, the largest and most complex polls the UN has ever helped to organize.