BY FELLY KIMENYI
KIGALI – Military chiefs from four regional countries have recommended that the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) renews military operations against Rwandan rebels on their territory. Meeting under the auspices of the Tripartite Plus Joint Commission (TPJC), the army commanders from Burundi, DRC, Rwanda and Uganda, yesterday drew a new time table for the resumption of military action against negative forces operating in the latter. They were closing a two-day meeting at Prime Holdings in Kigali.
The defence heads agreed that the offensives against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda would begin before the end of September.
The military chiefs included DRC’s Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Dieudonne Kayimba, Rwanda’s Chief of General Staff, Gen. James Kabarebe; Uganda’s Chief of Defence Forces, Gen. Aronda Nyakayirima; and Burundi Deputy Chief of General Staff, Maj. Gen. Godfrey Niyombare.
The development comes after the Congolese military stopped military operations against the Rwandan militias, most of whom are accused of participating in the 1994 Rwanda Genocide which claimed an estimated one million lives.
“We had stopped those operations for humanitarian reasons….barely one month after military operation against the negative forces, we had 642,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) we had to stop this to avoid this crisis,” Lt. Gen. Kayemba, said after the meeting.
He said that DRC and the UN Mission in Congo (Monuc) projected the number of IDPs in the country’s volatile eastern region to be one million in just one month of the operations.
Congo had initially agreed to hunt down the militias following the first TPJC military chiefs’ meeting held in Bujumbura, Burundi in April.
Following the Bujumbura meeting, Congo’s President Joseph Kabila immediately replaced the country’s then Chief of General Staff, Lt. Gen. Kisempia Songilanga Longe with Lt. Gen. Kayemba.
“We have left the other three scenarios open since (DR) Congo has assured us of a renewed commitment to rout the insurgents. We will consider other scenarios only when this one fails,” Maj. Jill Rutaremara, Rwanda’s military spokesman, said after the meeting.
The second scenario includes individual countries entering DRC in pursuit of negative forces destabilising their respective countries, while the third one is for the TPJC to carry out a joint military operation against the negative forces. The last scenario involves use of diplomatic channels through broader platforms such as the African Union.
The Congolese army chief said that Kinshasa would not entertain the continued existence of armed insurgents on its territory.
“These people are not Congolese; they should either go back to their respective countries or seek refugee status through normal channels, and we cannot grant them status when they are armed,” he said.
He however said that is was not easy to predict when the time when the insurgents would be cast out of the DRC because rebel groups are not structured, and they employ guerrilla warfare.
Most FDLR top leaders are already on a common list of most wanted persons agreed upon by all TPJC.
Maj. Ronald Miller, the Defence and Army attaché at the United States embassy in Kigali, who facilitated the military chiefs’ meeting, said that it was a success.
He said he was optimistic Congo would maintain their commitment. During the meeting, army chiefs established a joint planning cell that will help to develop operational plans.“The cell would be composed of heads of department in charge of operation, and those responsible for intelligence from TPJC member states in coordination with the Intelligence Fusion Cell,” a communiqué released after the meeting reads.
Sources that attended a closed-door session said the meeting agreed that the joint planning cell would meet September 20 to lay ground for another military chiefs meeting in DRC. “It is after that military chiefs’ meeting that the operations against FDLR will resume,” the source said.
The Tripartite Plus Fusion Cell has its headquarters in the Congolese town of Kisangani.TPJC is supported by both the US and the UN.
The New Times