Republic of Rwanda
Ministry of Defense
Kigali, 14 July 2012 Rwandan authorities today rejected an attempt by MONUSCO representatives to "repatriate" alleged defectors on the grounds that suspected combatants must undergo the agreed joint verification process established with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Twenty-nine alleged M23 defectors, along with seven FDLR combatants who had surrendered to MONUSCO troops, were escorted to the Rwanda/DRC border on Saturday. Among these were eleven who are currently investigated by the Rwanda/DRC Joint Verification Taskforce (JVT) along with 18 unknown individuals. The seven ex-FDLR combatants were accepted as part of the established disarmament, demobilization and repatriation process.
Rwanda’s Military Spokesperson, Brigadier-General Joseph Nzabamwita, said:
"The decision by MONUSCO to attempt the sudden repatriation of this group without warning or prior notification is highly irregular and well outside established procedures. While eleven of the 29 so-called defectors are still under investigation by authorities on both sides of the border, we have no basis for knowing the background or nationality of the other 18. We have officially communicated this incident to our counterparts in the DRC and requested that these individuals be processed as part of the JVT’s ongoing investigations."
The RDF also noted the presence of a media contingent along with DRC officials which added to suspicions that the attempted repatriation was an orchestrated publicity stunt.
“This unusual approach neither reflects the spirit of the JVT process nor the ostensibly impartial mandate of MONUSCO. We urge DRC authorities to adhere to jointly agreed mechanisms and resist political sensationalism."