Kinshasa – A group of 83 Rwandan Hutu rebels turned themselves in on Sunday in the face of threatened action by UN and Congolese troops as part of efforts to restore calm in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s restive east.
The rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, known as the FDLR, surrendered to authorities in North Kivu province in the DR Congo, said provincial deputy governor Feller Lutaichirwa.
However, many other rebels are believed to remain at large with less than a week to go before a 2 January deadline to surrender.
The international community has given the FDLR until 2 January to turn themselves in or face action by the Congolese army and the UN peacekeeping mission in the country.
The FDLR is thought to include between 1 500 and 2 000 fighters, including those suspected of having participated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
They are opposed to Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s Tutsi government and have for years been based in neighbouring eastern DRC, where they have been accused of conscripting child soldiers and of brutal attacks against residents, including rapes and murders.
In May, 97 FDLR members surrendered in North Kivu, followed by another group of 83 in South Kivu in June.
Sunday’s group of 83 arrived in civilian clothes and also turned in 37 weapons in the town of Buleusa in North Kivu. Thirty-eight wives and children were with them.
A further 17 fighters were said to be on their way to Buleusa to turn themselves in.
UN officials have pushed for the disarming of rebel groups after two decades of conflict in the eastern DR Congo, much of it fuelled by the lucrative trade in minerals.