An official of the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) said a joint military offensive pressured a top commander of the Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels to leave the group.
Lt. Colonel Bizimana, also known as Idrissa Muradadi, led the 2nd Battalion of the FDLR rebels. He was accompanied by three of his bodyguards when they handed themselves over to the UN mission in South Kivu.
MONUSCO spokesman Madnodje Mounoubai said the UN’s peacekeeping forces and the Congolese national army will continue working with the joint military offensive to protect unarmed civilians in both North and South Kivu.
“He is now being processed through the [DDRRR] Demobilization Disarmament Rehabilitation, Repatriation and Reintegration to be sent to his country,” said Mounoubai. “It’s very good news for us because the surrender of Idrissa will also have a demoralizing effect on his troops and we are expecting to see a lot of the FDLR [rebels] surrender in the coming days.”
The FDLR has often launched attacks on the unarmed population in the eastern part of northern Congo where the armed group has been operating since 1994. The group is accused of playing a key role in 1994 Rwandan genocide that killed hundreds of thousands of people in a 100 day massacre.
Mounoubai said the surrender of the rebel leader and his men weakens the FDLR’s violent insurgency.
“There is a massive military offensive going on right now by the FARDC [Congo’s national army], supported by MONUSCO, and we believe that this has something to do with the surrender of Mr. Bizimana because they started feeling the heat of this operation now,” said Mounoubai.
He said the UN mission is working with the authorities in Rwanda to help assimilate the former rebels into their society.
“We would hand over these people to this structure in Rwanda and this structure now will take them [and] assist them to reintegrate back into the Rwandese society,” said Mounoubai.
Mounoubai predicted FDLR attacks will lessen after residents in both North and South Kivu have often been violently attacked by the armed group.