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Rwandan Hutu Rebels Blocked From Repatriation - 2004-01-21

The U-N mission in Congo has confirmed that thousands of Rwandan Hutu rebels belonging to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) are being blocked by Hutu hard-liners from returning home to Rwanda.

Thousands of Rwandan Hutu rebels based in eastern Congo are being blocked from repatriation by Hutu hard-liners from within their own midst, U-N officials in Congo confirmed.

The United Nations said about three-thousand members of the Hutu F-D-L-R rebel movement, some of whose members were involved in the 1994 Rwandan massacre of some 800-thousand Tutsis and moderate Hutus, have been blocked from re-entering Rwanda.

The hard-liners have blocked off strategic exit points from forests in the eastern province of North Kivu near the Rwandan border and have been telling returnees that they will be prosecuted in Rwanda, according to sources within the U-N mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The F-D-L-R had fought alongside the former Congolese government against Rwandan backed Congolese rebels who are now part of a power sharing government in Congo.

U-N officials in Congo said they were optimistic that Hutu rebels would return home after the surrender of F-D-L-R leader Major General Paul Rwarakabije last November. But many analysts pointed out that General Rwarakabije was seen as a moderate member of his movement who was not even officially named as a perpetrator of genocide.

Of the 15-thousand Rwandan Hutu combatants still believed to be in eastern Congo, less than a third have been repatriated. Congo's new government has said it will not tolerate the presence of foreign armed groups in the country for much longer.