The Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) information minister says the country's administration is implementing measures to reestablish law and order in the former strongholds of the M23 rebel movement in the North Kivu provinces.
Lambert Mende also rejected concerns some armed groups could fill the vacuum created by the defeat of the M23 and the subsequent signing of a peace deal between the government and the rebels.
“There is now a police force, they are working, there is now civilian authority, they are back they are working and there is no void. Not at all,” said Mende.
The minister of internal affairs spent more than a month in the former rebel stronghold as part of government’s effort to ensure law and order, said Mende.
He denied reports the United Nations Mission in the country MONUSCO is helping the government establish law and order in the former strongholds of the M23 rebels.
“[The] U.N. Force has nothing to do with maintaining order. They are just assisting the army. The question of order is a question of civil authorities of police,” said Mende. “Thanks to what the army and MONUSCO did we managed now to deploy the police force and local authorities. The job was well done, the authorities are back and the people are starting to come back from refugee barracks.”
Mende said President Joseph Kabila’s administration is creating the environment to enable the internally and externally displaced citizens’ return safely and rebuild their lives.
“We have [allocated] budgetary funds, and we have also asked our partners like the United Nations, the European Union, [and] African Union to help us to do more. But we did not wait, we have allocated millions of dollars for having these people back,” said Mende.
“Our officials are working to welcome them ... to try working in agricultural, in animal husbandry,” said Mende. “They are doing what they can to settle themselves with the assistance of the government.”
Mende said both the administration and the M23 rebel movement agree that those who committed gross human rights violations during the conflict should be prosecuted to serve as a deterrent.
“We are happy that in the declaration that we signed, even the M23 is recognizing the necessity of fighting impunity,” said Mende. “We are going to [prosecute] all those within M23 who committed crimes. This is the only way to discourage and to dissuade those who would like to act like M23 or other groups. The only way to [establish] the rule of law, you must fight impunity.”
He said the national army, the FARDC, is working with MONUSCO to put pressure on Rwandan FDLR rebels in the CAR to disarm.