DR Congo: UN-backed campaign urges Kivu armed groups to surrender
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is assisting the Government in a new sensitization campaign encouraging all remaining armed groups in North and South Kivu provinces – where fighting has escalated in recent months leading to a dire humanitarian situation – to surrender.
The campaign was launched by the Government on 1 January and comes ahead of a conference, set to begin on Sunday in the North Kivu capital of Goma, aimed at bringing peace and development to the troubled eastern region of the DRC.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been forced to flee their homes in North Kivu in recent months after fighting intensified between Government troops and rebels allied with the dissident army general, Laurent Nkunda.
The UN mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, is assisting the Government in its efforts to reach the remaining foreign combatants in the Kivu provinces. The mission’s Disarmament, Demobilisation, Repatriation, Resettlement and Reintegration (DDRRR) division will be using radio broadcasts and leaflets encouraging them to surrender and return home.
The mission has 18 mobile radio teams, on the ground in both provinces, who have a broad knowledge of the foreign combatants and their location, said Ndiaga Diagne, a MONUC DDRRR officer based in Goma.
“Our role is to support the DRC Government with all the means and expertise at our disposal. We are ready to assist contacts between the DRC Government representatives and the FDLR [Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda] on the ground, in order to have the most complete sensitisation possible,” he explained.
He added that there are approximately 8,000 foreign combatants remaining in the Kivu provinces – 6,000 in North Kivu and 2,000 in South Kivu. “The majority of foreign combatants in the Kivus are FDLR combatants from Rwanda.”
The campaign is also aimed at Congolese armed combatants in the Kivus – the majority of whom are Nkunda rebels and Mai Mai factions – and the respective Disarmament Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme.
Last year, nearly 13,900 Congolese combatants were disarmed. Many ex-fighters from armed groups are retrained to form part of the national armed forces of the DRC (FARDC) through a process known as brassage.
MONUC has also assisted in repatriating some 800 foreign combatants and their dependants from the DRC last year.