A group of 155 Rwandan Hutu rebels turned themselves in on Sunday in the face of threatened action by UN and Congolese troops as part of efforts to restore calm in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s restive east.
The rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, known as the FDLR, surrendered to authorities in North Kivu province in the DR Congo, said provincial deputy governor Feller Lutaichirwa.
However, many other rebels are believed to remain at large with less than a week to go before a January 2 deadline to surrender. The international community has given the FDLR until then to turn themselves in or face action by the Congolese army and the UN peacekeeping mission in the country.
The FDLR is thought to include between 1,500 and 2,000 fighters, including those suspected of having participated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
They are opposed to Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s Tutsi government and have for years been based in neighbouring eastern DR Congo, where they have been accused of conscripting child soldiers and of brutal attacks against residents, including rapes and murders.
In May, 97 FDLR members surrendered in North Kivu, followed by another group of 83 in South Kivu in June. On Sunday, a total of 155 rebels surrendered. An initial group of 83 fighters arrived in civilian clothes and turned in 37 weapons in the town of Buleusa in North Kivu. They were accompanied by 38 wives and children.
Another 72 fighters surrendered later in Burhinyi in South Kivu according to aid groups in the area, accompanied by 168 women and children.
A further 17 fighters were said to be on their way to Buleusa to turn themselves in.
UN officials have pushed for the disarming of rebel groups after two decades of conflict in the eastern DR Congo, much of it fuelled by the lucrative trade in minerals. SAPA