Goma, 03 February 2011 - Last year 1881 rebel combatants from the militia group known as the FDLR - the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda - opted for voluntary surrender and disarmament to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, MONUSCO. Today the FDLR combatants number approximately 2500, down 60 percent from an estimated 6000 two years ago. The rebels are located in the eastern provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and northern Katanga.
In 2010, DDR/RR repatriated 1,165 foreign ex-combatants of which 1034 were FDLR. Together with 847 Congolese FDLR ex-combatants, DDR/RR demobilised a total of 1881 FDLR combatants and repatriated 1175 of their dependents. Sixty four of those who surrendered were officers. Since the launch of joint operations in January 2009, DDR/RR has demobilised a total of 3878 FDLR combatants which is over half the FDLR fighting force.
All combatants were disarmed and demobilized. The non-Congolese combatants were repatriated and resettled in their country of origin. These surrenders follow a widespread communications program spearheaded by DDR/RR (Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Reintegration and Resettlement), a section of the United Nations Stabilization Mission. The surrender rate was enhanced by a series of military operations conducted by the Congolese National Army (FARDC).
For those Rwandan ex-combatants who returned home, they go through a training course that helps them integrate into the society which some of them left since 1994. The training course is organised by the country's Demobilization and Reintegration Commission. In addition they further receive vocational training and financial support when they eventually return to their original community.
In 2010 the FDLR leadership attempted to boost recruitment by enlisting Congolese combatants and child soldiers. This is evidenced by a two-fold increase in the number of child soldiers extracted by DDR/RR. Six hundred and forty five child soldiers were extracted by DDR/RR last year compared to 233 child soldiers in 2009.
The MONUSCO DDR/RR team continues to focus on encouraging FDLR combatants to surrender, providing incentives to disarm and demobilize, and for the Rwandans among them to be repatriated. DDR/RR is seeking – through strategic communications with combatants in the forest and coordinated demobilization efforts with 22 teams located in the key provinces – to maximize the defection rate of the FDLR to the point where the group no longer poses a risk to the population or to regional stability and can no longer reconstitute itself.