Deal between Kinshasa and the FDLR?

On March 14, President Joseph Kabila presided over a state security meeting in Kinshasa, at the end of which he reported that a peace deal with the FDLR was in the offing.

According to UN officials, talks have been ongoing between the FDLR and the Congolese government for several months now, with the involvement of a European government as sometimes-facilitator. The deal would reportedly involve the transfer of FDLR headquarters from the border of Masisi-Walikale (North Kivu province) to Maniema province. Up to 1,500 soldiers would be concerned, which could be between 25-35% of their forces. The rest of their troops would be likely to  hold their current positions, but would maintain a ceasefire.

According to one UN official Congo Siasa spoke with, the deal could involve the disarmament of the FDLR forces concerned. This would be surprising, given that the deal involved Gen. Mudacumura, the FDLR overall commander, who was part of an FDLR disarmament deal in Kamina in 2002 that ended in bloodshed when Congolese troops – led by the current head of Congolese military intelligence – attacked the FDLR, who had refused to return to Rwanda and had begun to arm themselves.

There has been no official indication of where in Maniema the troops would be moved. The province is large, roughly the size of of the state of Florida.

For President Kabila, these talks are part of a large pre-electoral push to pacify the Kivus. His commanders have concluded at least four integration deals with different armed groups in past months, including FRF and Mai-Mai Kapopo. According to officials who have followed these deals closely, they usually involve large sums of money as incentives to the rebel commanders. Kabila will be announcing as part of his election campaign that he has been gotten rid of most armed groups in the Kivus.

For the FDLR, the peace deal could buy some respite from the battering they have received at the hands of the Congolese army over the past two years.

Re-location of the FDLR has long been mooted as part of the solution to the violence in the eastern Congo and was included (in a temporary fashion) in the November 2007 deal between Rwanda and the Congo regarding the FDLR in Nairobi. It is unlikely, however, Rwanda will be happy with such an arrangement of so many FDLR combatants, especially if they include he FDLR high command.

It is too early and too few details have leaked out to pass a verdict on these developments.