The leader of the Rwandan FDLR rebels, General Gaston Iyamuremye (aka Rumuli Michel) has been allowed to travel to Italy on a travel pass provided by the French head of UN peacekeeping operation, a decision that contravenesUN sanctions against its commanders and the group.
In December 2010, the UN Security Council added General Gaston Iyamuremye to the list of FDLR commanders who are considered international pariahs. General Iyamuremye is currently the leader of the democratic forces for the liberation of Rwanda whose members formed the execution manpower for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda against Tutsis, then fled to Zaire at the time.
However, according to an obtained copy of the travel pass granted by Herve Ladsous, a French national, heading the entire UN peacekeeping operations from New York. UN sanctions require that the mission in DR Congo, known as MONUSCO, under Ladsous, does not allow any sanctioned individuals to leave Congo.
On the classified travel pass, Ladsous gives General Iyamuremye permission to travel to Italy. He will be meeting members of the Catholic lay group Sant’Egidio, which has been the biggest clandestine funding mobiliser for theFDLR for many years. The travel pass allows General Iyamuremye to be in Italy between June 26-27.
General Iyamuremye is heading a delegation of senior FDLR commanders. According to our sources, officials from DR Congo and some countries within the Southern Africa Development community (SADC) are also in Italy. However, we cannot confirm if they will be at the same venue as the FDLR.
Ladsous writes: “The exemption is … for the sole purpose of allowing Mr Iyamuremye [to be in] Rome on 26 June, by departing the Democratic Republic of the Congo by air on 25 June and returning by air to the Democratic Republic of the Congo immediately after….”
Is Ladsous implementing French policy?
However, the pass does not say when exactly Gen Iyamuremye will return to DRC, neither does it say by which air transport means he will use. The note does not say if he will use UN transport of chartered flights.
The UN peacekeeping department has come under scrutiny as well due to the man heading it, Frenchman Hervé Ladsous. He was France’s UN envoy during the genocide against Tutsis during which French commandos aided the genocide militia to hunt and kill Tutsis. Critics accuse Ladsous of consistently ignoring Rwanda’s plea for the UN to act on FDLR.
According to the reviewed mandate, MONUSCO should have begun targeting the FDLR with military action to force it to demobilize and repatriate back home, or be forced to surrender. The FDLR were supposed to follow after the end of the M23 rebels. But there is growing skepticism in the region that MONUSCO could do anything of the kind.
MONUSCO and DRC government defended the delay that they had to begin with M23, then Ugandan ADF rebels, and eventually FDLR. However, recently, MONUSCO announced it was going after other three Congolese self-defense groups, which have been battling FDLR for years.
Aid agencies and local civil society in DRC accuse the 22,000 strong force of looking away as Rwandan rebels roam Congo’s jungles – and planning to attack Rwanda.
Rwanda’s envoy at the UN Eugene Richard Gasana in November last year angrily told the UN Security Council that nothing was happening on the ground despite MONUSCO public statements that it was attacking FDLR.
Gasana was speaking at a Security Council session on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) initiative. Gasana said the initiative should not be held hostage of political interests of the Council’s permanent members. He was referringto the France, United States, UK, China and Russia.
“…we once again call upon permanent members to refrain from using the veto, especially in case of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said Gasana. “It is unfortunate that perpetrators of the genocide in Rwanda, the FDLR, are still roaming freely in the east of the DR Congo.”
History of UN support for FDLR
Rwanda’s diplomat said the Security Council has never held MONUSCO accountable, allowing the massively funded mission to do as it pleases including cases when it has not done anything on Rwandan FDLR militia group for past 13years.
The latest revelations come amidst counter accusations from Kigali and Kinshasa that each side has been supporting the other’s rebels.
News of Rwanda has documented a pattern suggesting the UN mission in DRC has been backing the FDLR rebels for years since its previous mandate called MONUC.
The UN troops patrol areas controlled by the Rwandan militia and are said to provide them with logistical support – instead of combating them.
In a particularly embarrassing case in October 2009, MONUC, the predecessor of MONUSCO, airlifted two European doctors to treat FDLR supreme commander Sylvestre Mudacumura. Doctors Jerome Gasana and Francois Goujon arrived in DRC via Kisangani, from where they were airlifted to Lubutu in Walikale region. The operation was handled by Christian Manhal – MONUC’s coordinator in East DRC at the time.