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Pressure On Rwanda Rebels

The international community continues to press for peace in the African Great Lakes region. Following the January arrest of Laurent Nkunda, the rebel leader who led a guerrilla war against government forces in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, additional pressure is also being brought to bear against another rebel group wreaking havoc there.

The United Nations and United States have designated for targeted sanctions 4 men who are key figures in the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, the FDLR. The group is led by former members of the Rwandan armed forces, Interahamwe militia and other Hutu extremists who fled to the eastern DRC after taking part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Callixte Mbarushimana, Stanislas Nzeyimana, Pacifique Ntawunguka and Leopold Mujyambre have acted as military leaders of a foreign armed group operating in the DRC, impeding the disarmament and voluntary repatriation and resettlement of combatants; recruited child soldiers for the FDLR's military activities in the region; and committed sexual violence and other serious human rights violations.

Following a UN Security Council resolution adopted in 2008, the 4 are subject to a travel ban and an assets freeze. The U.S. sanctions, meanwhile, prohibit any U.S. persons from engaging in any transactions with the 4 men. These are serious steps aimed at restricting these FDLR leaders’ activities. The first 3 are believed to be resident in the DRC, and Mujyambre is believed to be living in France or Germany.

Some stability has been brought to the region with the arrest of Mr. Nkunda, as well as a successful joint operation between the Rwandan and Congolese armed forces against Nkunda's guerrillas and the FDLR. The new sanctions designations by the UN and U.S. will strengthen the prospects for peace by limiting the abilities of key rebel leaders who have done so much to undermine the peace process in eastern Congo, where fighting has caused more than half a million people to flee their homes since last year.

By these and other actions, the U.S. continues to stand in strong support of the governments of the DRC and Rwanda to stabilize the region, strongly signal to the FDLR the need to respect humanitarian law and protect civilians, and it encourages rank and file FDLR members to disarm voluntarily and return to their homes.