UN report highlights collaboration between FARDC, Burundian forces and FDLR

By Esther Muhozi
On 4 January 2024 at 10:42

The UN Group of experts report released on January 3, 2024, revisited the security challenges in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) underscoring the evident collaboration between the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) and Burundian soldiers.

According to the report, the Congolese government formed the Wazalendo group, comprising fighters from various factions, including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), to assist in combating the M23 rebel group. Gen Peter Cirimwami played a crucial role in uniting Wazalendo and the FDLR, as per the report.

FDLR is a terrorist group formed by individuals responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

In September, Cirimwami Nkuba assumed the role of interim military governor of North Kivu Province in the DRC, a region under military rule since 2021. Cirimwami, a member of the Abashi tribe from South Kivu Province, has predominantly operated in the East of the country.

Cirimwami gained media attention in April 2022 when appointed as the Head of military operations against rebels in South Kivu and North Kivu, known as Sokola II, involving clashes between government forces and the M23 militia.

The report alleges that on September 22 and 23, Cirimwami, accompanied by members of armed groups, particularly those associated with Wazalendo, held meetings in Goma. These armed individuals were reportedly hosted in Goma, with their residences protected by FARDC soldiers.

The UN report suggests that these fighters were transported by FARDC planes to various locations. Discussions during the meetings focused on establishing a collaborative mechanism between FARDC and Wazalendo to combat the M23, a group the Congolese government claims is backed by Rwanda.

However, Rwanda refuted the allegations and urged DR Congo to solve internal problems without dragging it into its mess.

The report details the assignment of specific areas of operation for participating units. Five fighters attended the meeting, each representing a group, with some individuals, including Guidon Shimiray Mwisa, leader of the NDC-Rénové group, being under international sanctions.

A week later, Wazalendo reportedly attacked M23-held areas, with the report asserting that these actions were ordered by the Office of the Governor of North Kivu. The UN report claims that the Congolese army provided weapons, equipment, and funds to Wazalendo leaders and fighters to facilitate the attacks.

Cirimwami, questioned about the FARDC-Wazalendo relationship, asserted that the use of Wazalendo was not part of the government’s plan but was a response to M23’s provocation.

The report highlights M23’s effective military tactics and their objective to capture key locations in South Kivu. Additionally, it notes the ongoing ambiguity in the relationship between the DRC and Burundi forces, with accusations from M23 regarding Burundian forces fighting on the Congolese side.

Despite a military agreement between Burundi and the DRC signed in August last year, the relationship remains unclear. The agreement outlines joint cooperation in potential attacks against either party, with a commitment to assist in case of attacks. The Congolese army accused the EAC of ineffectiveness against the M23, prompting the DRC government to seek assistance from Burundi.

The UN report reveals the presence of 1070 Burundian soldiers in Congo, fighting under FARDC uniforms since October 2023.

They arrived secretly in violation of EAC rules, cooperating with FARDC and Wazalendo in the fight against the M23. The Burundian military denies allegations that Gen Cirimwami gave orders to the Burundian army based on instructions from his superior.