KIGALI, 25 Aug 2005 (IRIN) - Rwandan Hutu rebels in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have until 30 September to disarm or else face "severe" consequences, ministers of regional cooperation from DRC, Rwanda and Uganda said on Thursday.
In a US government-facilitated meeting in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, ministers from the three countries told the rebels to start laying down their guns voluntarily.
"We believe the time for these rebels is over," Mbusa Nyamwisi, the DRC minister for regional cooperation, told reporters. "Our governments are going to do everything possible to make sure that the rebels adhere to this new deadline."
The ministers at the Kigali meeting criticised the rebels, known as the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR), for failing to keep a promise they made in March to end attacks against their homeland.
The ministers did not detail the action they would take if the rebels failed to comply. However, the Rwandan special envoy to the Great Lakes region, Richard Sezibera, said the repercussions would be political and military.
The rebels said in May that they were reluctant to go home until they received more guarantees about their security. However, Rwandan President Paul Kagame has dismissed the condition, and said his government would not grant them any special terms. Rwanda has said it would bring to trial any genocide suspect.
If the rebels refused to disarm they could attract direct military attack. Nyamwisi said his government was completing the training of a special force to disarm the rebels. The Congolese forces would work jointly with the proposed African Union force as well as the UN Mission in the DRC.
The FDLR is the largest grouping of Rwandan Hutu rebels; its leaders are accused of having killed some 937,000 Rwandan Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus in 1994 over 100 days. Some of the rebels were members of the former Rwandan army and infamous Hutu militia, the Interahamwe, who planned and carried out the genocide.
The presence of thousands of Rwandan rebels in eastern DRC over the last 10 years has fuelled ongoing regional instability. Rwanda used the rebels' presence there as a reason to invade Congo in 1996 and 1998.