Events

Briefing on the Eastern DRC:Repatriation of FDLR combatants and their dependents from DRC to Rwanda

March 09, 2009 // 9:30am11:00am

Before the briefing on DDR and DDRRR, Herbert Weiss, Emeritus Professor, City University of New York and Senior Policy Scholar at the Wilson Center, gave a historical context to the situation.


Bruno Donat, Officer-in-Charge at the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) for DDR and DDRRR operations, presented the DDR/DDRRR program in the DRC, defining MONUC's role in this program and giving an analysis of the impact of the recent joint military operation.

DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration) is a process involving combatants of Congolese Nationality; DDRRR (Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Resettlement and Reintegration) is a process involving foreign combatants. MONUC takes part in both programs, yet their role regarding the DDRRR program is limited to disarmament, demobilization and repatriation activities. Resettlement and reintegration programs fall outside of MONUC's mandate as they take place in neighboring countries.

On DDR
In the DRC, DDR is implemented through both a national and a regional program, however MONUC coordinates only national programs.

The PNDDR program (National DDR Program), run by the governmental agency for demobilization, CONADER ended it's first phase in June 2008, during which 102,000 of the expected 186,000 combatants were demobilized and 104,000 weapons were collected. This phase was entirely funded ($200 million) by the Multi-Country Demobilization and Reintegration Program, a group of international donors whose secretariat is located at the World Bank. The second phase of the National DDR Program targets the remaining 98,000 combatants and is scheduled to end in December 2009. The $75 million budget of this phase is funded by the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the Congolese government.

The second DDR program in the DRC is a regional one targeting the Eastern Kivu provinces, designed under the Amani peace agreement signed in January 28, 2008 by twenty-three armed groups including the CNDP. The "one combatant one weapon" rule that holds for the PNDDR does not apply under the Amani program, mainly because the latter is an accelerated program. Donat highlighted the difficulty of having two different DDR programs in the same country, especially while the conflict continues. DDR is supposed to be a post-conflict activity. When the Amani DDR program eventually started in January 2009, North Kivu was in such turmoil that MONUC decided to concentrate first on South Kivu where the situation was more favorable to DDR, however, the situation changed with the launch of the Rwanda-DRC joint military operation. On January 22, Laurent Nkunda was arrested and an accelerated integration into the FARDC of CNDP combatants became necessary. At that time, the only option proposed to combatants was reintegrating into the National Army; demobilizing or returning to civilian life were not presented as options, which, according to Donat, is very problematic.

On DDRRR
When the joint military operation was launched in North Kivu, the DDRRR branch of MONUC was asked to stop operating in the region for safety and security reasons. The UN successfully negotiated with the joint military operation commanders to be allowed into the province. This was indeed the right time to take advantage of what Donat called a push and pull strategy: The joint military operation was pressuring FDLR combatants (push) while at the same time MONUC was offering them a way out with the DDRRR option (pull). MONUC increased the number of weapons collection points in both North and South Kivu, established a 24/7 call center in the North, created mobile teams in the South and multiplied campaigns aiming at encouraging FDLR combatants, already under military pressure, to repatriate. In 2008, 1103 FDLR (600 combatants and 503 dependents) were repatriated as well as 200 "others" (mostly CNDP combatants). In January and February 2009 MONUC repatriated 1351 combatants and the UNHCR repatriated 5279 people registered as "civilian" Rwandans. Hence, a total of 5630 Rwandans were repatriated within two months. However, Donat mentioned that MONUC does not and cannot know how many of these "civilians" were actually combatants.

On coordination
Coordination between actors is a key component of success; the first level of coordination is between UN agencies. The UNHCR is in charge of civilian returnees; for security and logistic reasons, locations accessible to DDRRR teams are not always accessible to UNHCR personal. DDRRR teams not only inform the UNHCR about volunteers but also transport civilians to locations accessible to the UNHCR team. The DDRRR team also coordinates with UNICEF with regards to child soldiers. Coordination with Rwanda-based FDLR representatives is also necessary; in order to consider repatriation, would-be returnees need to be in contact with friends or relatives in Rwanda. The DDRRR team maintains close contacts with FDLR representatives in Rwanda and facilitates communication with Congo-based FDLR. The last actors with whom MONUC needs to coordinate are the commanders of military operations. This coordination, by reinforcing the credibility of each party, explains the success of DDRRR over the past two months. To illustrate the deleterious impact of insufficient coordination, Donat told of a MONUC team that had spent significant time sensitizing a population on a specific location. Just after the team left the site, commanders of the joint operation heard rumors that the team's helicopter had been targeted by hostile elements. This information turned out to be false, but the military commanders had already decided to retaliate against the purported hostile party. This highly impacted MONUC's credibility. This illustrative example is an exception to MONUC's tradition of interagency coordination, but demonstrates quite well the necessity of retaining close ties and good relationships with partner organizations and groups.

Donat went on to describe the creation, by the Rwandan government, of the RDRC (Rwandan Demobilization and Reintegration Commission) whereby Rwandan ex-combatants are taken to a transition center in Mutubo and given basic courses to help them reintegrate into civilian life. Once the transition phase is over they receive a grant and become eligible for reintegration programs specifically designed for ex-combatants.

Donat warned against unsustainable security measures in the region, saying that once a group has been demobilized or pushed backed through military operations, another group could potentially fill the gap; hence the need for a post-combat or post-disarmament strategy. Moderator Herbert Weiss noted that the majority of FDLR is in South Kivu not in North Kivu and questioned if the combination of MONUC forces and FARDC will be sufficient to deal with this. He also noted that Rwandan withdrawal of troops on the date previously agreed upon with Kabila would have a positive impact on public opinion and could facilitate a second joint operation. This is important as the reversal of alliances has been particularly difficult for local populations to accept, particularly for the Mai Mai, who have always fought against external troops.

What next?
Whether another joint operation takes place or not, the DDR/DDRRR programs will most likely continue on the same path. A realistic success would be the disarmament and demobilization of 50% of the 98,000 remaining Congolese combatants. Regarding the FDLR, an important step would be to separate hardliners - "génocidaires" - from the rank-and-file combatants. This would facilitate the return process.

Donat cited two challenges for the UN in the months to come: first, some CNDP combatants are awaiting the fate of General Laurent Nkunda. Many of them are unhappy with his arrest and won't disarm before they know what his future is. Second, Donat questioned the capacity of the UN to support the FARDC now that Bosco Ntaganda, indicted by the ICC, has been reintegrated into the National Army.

Drafted by Laetitia Beuscher, intern, and Justine Lindemann, Program Assistant.

EMAIL UPDATES

Wilson Center Photo Gallery

Browse or share photos from the Wilson Center’s events.

To Attend an Event

Unless otherwise noted:

Meetings listed on this page are free and open to the public. Reservations are not required unless otherwise noted. All meetings take place at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC. Please see map and directions. Allow time for routine security procedures. A photo ID is required for entry.

To confirm time and place, contact Maria-Stella Gatzoulis on the day of the event: tel. (202) 691-4188. Check this page for the latest updates and notices.

Experts & Staff