Shifting stances: DRC’s contradictory commitments on FDLR dismantlement

By Esther Muhozi
On 28 March 2024 at 11:22

In a series of diplomatic engagements that have seen more twists than a mountain pass, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)’s stance on the dismantlement of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) has evolved dramatically.

Initially, at a meeting in Luanda, Angola, on March 21, 2024, the DRC, represented by Minister of Foreign Affairs Christophe Lutundula, pledged to the United Nations Security Council in New York to present a detailed plan for the dissolution of the FDLR by April 2024.

This commitment was seen as a significant step towards addressing the longstanding security concerns in the region, particularly those voiced by Rwanda regarding the FDLR’s destabilizing activities.

The anticipation for a tangible plan was bolstered by a communique from the tripartite meeting, highlighting the DRC’s readiness to unveil a strategy complete with execution methods for dismantling the FDLR.

The French Ambassador to the UN, Nicolas de Rivière, lauded this move, recognizing it as a direct response to the security threat identified by Rwanda and a potential milestone in restoring trust between the two neighboring countries.

However, the narrative took an unexpected turn when the DRC ambassador to the UN, Zénon Mukongo Ngay, delivered remarks that starkly contrasted with the commitments made in Luanda.

Ambassador Ngay asserted that the FDLR was effectively non-existent, having been dismantled in joint operations between the DRC and Rwandan armed forces in previous years.

He described the current references to the FDLR as remnants that persist only within the realm of social media, a stark departure from the group once accused of fostering instability and spreading genocidal ideology across the region.

Adding to the complexity, Minister Lutundula’s subsequent statements in Kinshasa underscored a position of denial regarding the FDLR’s existence, further distancing the DRC’s official stance from its initial promises.

By calling for evidence of the FDLR’s activities from the UN and the African Union, the DRC government seemed to pivot from a posture of action to one of inquiry, inviting speculation about its commitment to regional security and cooperation.

This volte-face did not go unnoticed by Rwanda, whose ambassador to the UN, Rwamucyo Ernest, vehemently disputed the DRC’s assertions. Ambassador Rwamucyo underscored the ongoing threat posed by the FDLR, accusing it of not only persisting but also being bolstered by the Congolese army (FARDC).

He emphasized the dire need for a cessation of hostilities and the integration of FDLR fighters back into Rwandan society, a process previously undertaken with former combatants.

The evolving dialogue around the FDLR issue reveals a labyrinth of diplomatic maneuvers, contrasting narratives, and the complex interplay of regional politics.

The DRC’s shifting positions highlight the challenges inherent in addressing non-state armed groups, the reliability of international commitments, and the overarching quest for stability in the Great Lakes region.

As the situation unfolds, the international community remains watchful, hopeful for progress yet cautious of the hurdles that lie ahead in the path to peace and reconciliation.

DRC ambassador to the UN, Zénon Mukongo Ngay, delivered remarks that starkly contrasted with the commitments made in Luanda.