A military delegation from the African Union (AU) has arrived in North Kivu in the troubled eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to assess the possible deployment of 7,000 troops to disarm foreign armed groups who have been attacking civilians, the UN Mission in DRC (MONUC) said.
MONUC said its Security Council mandate is limited to organizing voluntary repatriation of the foreign armed combatants - both the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which had promised in March to return home to Rwanda, and the thousands of foreign members of the Allied Democratic Forces/National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF/NALU) in North Kivu's expansive "Great North" region.
The AU delegation, which arrived on 18 November, has been briefed extensively by various experts, including MONUC's North Kivu Brigade and its section dealing with disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, reintegration and reinsertion (DDRRR). It has also sought advice from people on the ground on possible coordination and logistical support.
The newly unified Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) have undertaken operations against the FDLR, but have only been able to destabilize them, MONUC said.
"MONUC doesn't have the mandate to proceed with forcible disarmament. The FARDC does not yet have the capacity, given that the army is still in the process of integration. We will come, therefore, to bridge the gap between the two," AU delegation spokesperson Boubacar Diallo said.
Sometime early next year, the AU would consider undertaking limited operations, based on solid intelligence, to disarm the remnants of foreign armed groups, he said.