“The rebel leaders are living freely in Germany and France. No one questions them,” the Rev. Jean-Luc Kuye Ndondo, the South Kivu president of the Church of Christ in Congo (ECC), told Ecumenical News International. “They should be questioned or even arrested, since they are behind many atrocities.”
Ignace Murwanashyaka, the 46-year-old leader of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), is said to live in Germany and the group’s executive secretary, Calixte Mbarushimana is said to be in France.
A widely-held view among local leaders in the eastern part of the DRC is that the FDLR, which traces its origin to the 1994 Rwanda genocide, causes much of the misery in eastern DRC. They also assert that the reining in and disarming of the FDLR could be a key step towards peace in the region.
On July 14, The New Times newspaper of Rwanda quoted the U.N. Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of Congo, Alan Doss, as saying that defectors had reported that the two rebel leaders said to be in Europe are in constant contact with commanders on the ground. Doss said legal options are being studied to try the two in exile for the atrocities committed in the DRC.
Detaining the two rebel leaders, Kuye Ndondo said, would help ease fighting in South and North Kivu provinces in the eastern DRC. “The biggest obstacle has been the leadership of the FDLR,” said Kuye Ndondo, a bishop in the ECC, a Protestant church.
He explained that some combatants have shown a willingness to lay down their arms, but they are uncertain about what would happen after that. “If Rwanda can accept to receive them fully that would help the peace process,” said Kuye Ndondo. “If the powerful nations, the United States of America, Britain and the like, could talk to Rwanda to accept them, that would be very useful.”
Church officials say there has been unprecedented displacement into towns, with the rebels attacking and setting ablaze villages. The town of Bukavu, which had about 200 000 people before the conflict, has swelled to more than one million, church officials there told ENI.
Speaking in Bukavu on 10 July, Bishop Josue Bulambo Lembelembe, the deputy president of the Church of Christ in Congo in South Kivu, said church leaders have been going into the nearby forests to convince the rebels there to leave.
“Sometimes we have slept in the forests. It’s very challenging work, but we have had some success. Alas, however, we have also lost a church leader who was shot in the forest,” said Bulambo Lembelembe.
Relief organizations have recently expressed concern about growing insecurity in the region. On July 15, Ricky Agusa Sukaka, a 27-year-old Congolese Caritas Internationalis staffer working as an agricultural engineer was shot dead on his way home from work.
A statement by the Roman Catholic aid and development organization on July 21 said villagers had reported seeing Sukaka being stopped by two men wearing Congolese army uniforms before he was killed.