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Hutu rebel leader talks to fighters on ending war

NAIROBI, 12 May 2005 (IRIN) - The leader of thousands of Rwandan Hutu militiamen based in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ignace Murwanashyaka, arrived in the eastern town of Bukavu on Wednesday, a month and half after he signed a declaration vowing to end the armed struggle against the government of Rwanda.

"He told us said he would head to the Hombo region [the Forces Democratiques de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) stronghold north of Bukavu] to meet combatants and make them aware of the declaration," said Eliane Nabaa, assistant director of information for MONUC, the UN Mission in DRC.

The declaration, signed by Murwanashyaka in Rome on 31 March, is seen as an important step towards reducing instability in eastern DRC and surrounding countries. In it, the FDLR agrees to end the armed struggle against the Rwandan government and to participate in repatriating the tens of thousands of Rwandans in DRC.

Analysts, however, said the success of the declaration was far from certain.

"The devil is in the details," James Terrie, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group (ICG), told IRIN.

He wrote a report on "Congo: Solving the FDLR Problem Once and for All", which was released on Thursday in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

"Negotiations between the FDLR and the Rwandan government could collapse," Terrie said. "There are indications that the FDLR will try to make political demands; the Rwanda government has already stated clearly that this would be unacceptable".

However, he said, some negotiations on the mechanics of the repatriation were unavoidable

"The FDLR has legitimate concerns about what Rwandan authorities will do with the fighters once they return to Rwanda," he said.

Many of the Rwandan Hutu's fled Rwanda following the 1994 genocide, in which some are accused of having taken part.

Murwanashyaka told IRIN in April, "If one among us is accused [of genocide], they should be brought to justice."

However, Terrie said, "It remains unclear who the FDLR would hand the accused over to: the Rwandan government or the intentional community."

The ICG estimates there are 30,000 FDLR combatants and their families in the DRC, of whom 8,000 to 16,000 are combatants.

For MONUC's part, Nabaa said, "Things are already in place for the repatriation. We have identified six transit reception sites and necessary renovations are already underway."

If negotiations for peacefully disarming and repatriating the FDLR fail, then a military solution would have to be found and, Terrie said, "MONUC will not undertake this task."

He said the new Congolese army would have to do the job.

"While this would likely result in more displacement and deaths of innocent civilians at least in the short run, letting the problem continue to fester is not an option," he said.

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