Kigali, Rwanda- January 28, 2009- Reuters. Under a UN program, Rwandans who have been fighting with militias in the DRC are getting to visit their home country to see whether conditions are conducive to return. Officials from the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) arrived in Kasiki, a rebel controlled area in North Kivu in the country's east, to escort combatants from the Rally for Unity and Democracy (RUD) on a reconnaissance visit to Rwanda.
RUD is a splinter group of the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda). Some of the FDLR is responsible for the deaths of 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus during that country's 1994 genocide. Most of the former RUD fighters have lived in the bush since the genocide.
MONUC hopes to offer a voluntary and peaceful repatriation solution for combatants to now go back to Rwanda. "We bring them across the border and make sure that they know this to Rwanda. Right now there is no war; this is a country you haven't seen for many many years. And we organize visits, they go and visit their families, visit places and then they are supposed to come back after one week," said Donat, the head of MONUC's Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Resettlement and Reintegration (DDRRR) program.
On this visit, six RUD combatants, accompanied by their dependants were first taken to Goma on board a MONUC helicopter. At a MONUC base in Goma, they each received 100 US dollars to buy clothes and other items for their journey. The visit is a joint initiative of the governments of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), facilitated by MONUC and supported by the international community.
"This repatriation or 'go and see visit', I should say, of the Kasiki ex-combatants is one of the concrete expressions of how we have been able to move forward," said Charles Gurney, a Political Counsellor with the US Department of State.
The Rwandan government says it is fully committed to accommodating and reinstating the Rwandan combatants who choose the option of disarmament, demobilization and the voluntary return. "We've come to Rwanda today to assess whether it's safe for us to return. After this visit, we'll go back to Congo and tell our colleagues what we've observed," said Benoit Barabwiriza, the leader of the RUD delegation.
Congolese President Joseph Kabila's recent decision to allow Rwandan soldiers to pursue the FDLR within Congo has been touted by his government as a move to finally pacify the troubled east.