Congolese militia leader in North Kivu surrenders to UN peacekeepers

Congolese militia leader in North Kivu surrenders to UN peacekeepers

The United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) reports that a militia leader in the country’s troubled North Kivu province has turned himself over to peacekeepers along with nearly 30 of his men.

Kibamba Kasereka, leader of the Forces patriotiques Mayi-Mayi, also known as Forces armées populaires de libération (FAPL), and 29 of his men surrendered to UN peacekeepers on Saturday morning in the town of Kisharo, in North Kivu province, the UN mission, known as MONUC, said in a press release.

There has been a recent flare-up of fighting in North Kivu province, where Government forces have been clashing with those loyal to renegade General Laurent Nkunda and other groups, resulting in a large number of refugees and displaced persons.

MONUC notes that the surrender is the result of a military operation by the Congolese Army and the strong pressure it placed on Kasereka and his militia.

The mission hopes the event “will be quickly followed by the surrender of many other fighters, as a step towards their integration into the national army, their demobilization or their repatriation, notably that of the negative forces with which Kasereka operated.”

It calls on all remaining illegal armed elements to lay down their weapons and to join the process of integration into the national army.

Meanwhile, on Friday, the UN’s Independent Expert on the human rights situation in the DRC voiced concern about ongoing grave violations, including arbitrary executions, rape, torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, including by members of the armed forces and police operating in a climate of impunity.

In North Kivu, clashes involving the forces of General Nkunda have been accompanied by rights abuses in conditions exacerbated by violations of humanitarian law which complicated efforts to provide relief aid to the affected population, said Titinga Fédéric Pacéré, in an address to the General Assembly’s Social, Humanitarian and Cultural (Third) Committee.

He emphasized the widespread problem of sexual violence, with the worst cases in the Kivus and Equateur province. From 2005 to 2007, 287 cases of rape were referred to the authorities, while figures compiled from health centres indicated that close to 14,200 new cases of sexual violence were registered during the same period.

“This indicates that less than 1 per cent of rape victims have seen their cases referred to the justice system,” he said, and of that small per cent, an even smaller number resulted in any punishment.

He called on the authorities to adopt a “zero-tolerance” approach to serious violations of human rights and to give priority to fighting the prevailing climate of impunity. He also called for the creation of an international tribunal specifically to deal with crimes in the DRC.