UN versus the FDLR rebels is nothing to get excited about

Right now, the drums of war in Great Lakes region of Africa are beating more and more incessantly but in my humble opinion, that is all that will happen. We won’t see any real battles; in fact, the best we can hope for are mild skirmishes.

Who wants to fight this FDLR guerilla?....

Who wants to fight this FDLR guerilla?….

This despite the fact that the UN Security Council has authorized military action against Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)-based FDLR (Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda) rebels due to their threat to civilians in the Eastern DRC.

To Great Lakes region watchers the acronym ‘FDLR’ is well know, but to the uninitiated, let me explain exactly who these ‘democratic forces are’.

Their leadership is composed of former Rwandan government officials and military officers who actively participated in the 1994 Genocide. After their military defeat at the hands of now President Paul Kagame’s RPF (Rwanda Patriotic Front) rebels, they fled west and settled down in Eastern DRC where they begun launching guerilla strikes into Rwandan territory.

Whereas the guerilla attacks into Rwanda petered out by the early 2000’s, their acts of violence and looting have continued in the Congo; they’ve raped hundreds and killed even more. What is even more irksome is that they use Congolese minerals to buy arms, they very arms that they then turn on Congolese civilians.

The Rwandan government, at times in concert with the DRC and sometimes alone, has taken the fight to the FDLR. However, despite these military forays the FDLR has not been crushed. Perhaps this is because its modus operandi is to disappear into the dense rainforest whenever confronted by a force stronger than a few villagers wielding bows and arrows. Either way, FDLR is alive and well in Eastern DRC. Enter the international community.

After the United Nations Force Intervention Brigade (a UN Security Council-mandated contingent composed of crack South African, Malawian and Tanzanian troops) defeated the M23 rebels led by ICC indicted Bosco ‘Terminator’ Ntaganda, they promised to turn their high-powered attack helicopters on the FDLR. That was in 2013.

Two years down the line, and after more FDLR attacks, the international community is rattling its sabres again.


Not these MONUSCO peacekeepers

After the FDLR ignored the request to voluntarily disarm by January 2 2015, a decisions made by the regional groupings ICGLR (International Conference on the Great Lakes Region) and SADC (South African Development Community), they’ve been threatened with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2147, which allows for a military offensive against them. In fact, even the wishy-washy European Union has joined the bandwagon. In a press statement released on the 19th January, the EU states, “the moment has come to start military action”.

Fighting words indeed.

However, I doubt whether anything will come of all this. Here are the facts.

Firstly, before the UN forces defeat the FDLR they have to find them first. Unlike the M23, they don’t engage in conventional warfare; they don’t dig up positions and fight to the death. Rather they melt into the civilian population at the first sign of trouble and use those very civilians as human shields.

Secondly, the FDLR isn’t a coherent force. Instead of a massed body of troops, what they are in reality is a bunch of militiamen, in groups not bigger than 200, spread over a huge surface area. So, if UN forces do attack, which group of FDLR will they attack?

I don’t even analyze whether the UN forces actually WANT to attack the FDLR. After all, this wouldn’t be the first time they threatened action and did nothing. In fact, when asked about the proposed UN military action in a press conference, President Kagame sounded quiet skeptical, saying that any such action would come as a surprise.

So, will there be military action? Not in my opinion. However, what I am pleased about is the fact that the international community is finally waking up to the murderous acts perpetrated by this group. Perhaps as a result of all this ‘noise’, the FDLR will think twice before perpetrating any more abuses. After all, what they really, really desire is to be taken seriously enough by the international community that the Rwandan government is forced to negotiate a political settlement with them.

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