To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of hostilities in eastern Congo, the role played by the Rwandan Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, the estimated number of fatalities and dispersed people, and measures to address the underlying causes of conflict in the African Great Lakes region. [HL472]
The UK is deeply concerned about ongoing hostilities in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Kimia II military operation, launched early in 2009, has provided mixed results. Limited progress has been made against Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), for instance reducing FDLR control of major regions, and its access to both markets and mines that have financed its activities. This has had a destabilising affect on the FDLR, with a subsequent increase in the number of FDLR personnel voluntarily going through the disarmament, demobilisation, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration (DDRRR) process (close to 1400 have done so this year, far more than in 2008).
The downside to the activities of Kimia II has been the significant humanitarian costs, as the FDLR has carried out reprisals against civilian populations. According to a report by Human Rights Watch this month, 1400 civilians have been killed in military operations this year.
Since 1998 over 5 million people have died as a result of the conflict in DRC and the UN estimates that there are currently 1.6-1.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in DRC.
The UK has been promoting a comprehensive approach to ending the conflict in eastern DRC. This approach has included non-military activity, such as providing support to the UN DDRRR process (for example, through providing communications equipment). We continue to lobby the Governments of DRC and Rwanda to implement the peace process fully. We are encouraged by—and fully supportive of—the recent rapprochement between DRC and Rwanda, and see this as an important step towards tackling the instability in the Kivus.
The UK has also been active in addressing the underlying causes of instability in the region, including action against the illegal trading of minerals. Our development programmes in the region aim to support national reconciliation, tackle poverty, build economic prosperity and foster respect for human rights.