* Around 100 rebels surrender in eastern Congo
* Rwanda has consistently rejected negotiations
* U.N. carrying out operations against armed groups in Congo
By Kenny Katombe
BULEUSA, Democratic Republic of Congo, May 30 (Reuters) -
R wandan rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo began
what they claimed was the first step in disarming their fighters
on Friday, but warned that continuing the process would depend
on the government in Kigali agreeing to talks.
The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR)
said last month that they would "lay down their weaponry and
consecrate themselves to political struggle."
About 100 fighters surrendered during a ceremony in North
Kivu province, handing in weapons including some heavy
artillery, according to a Reuters witness.
"With this act of good faith the international community is
called to assume its responsibility to obtain a political
dialogue among Rwandans," said FDLR president, General Victor
Authorities in Rwanda have repeatedly rejected the
possibility of negotiations with the FDLR, which Kigali
considers a terrorist organisation that espouses a genocidal
Composed in part of former soldiers and Hutu militia who
fled into Congo after massacring around 800,000 Tutsis and
moderate Hutus during Rwanda's 1994 genocide, the FDLR has since
sought to topple the government of President Paul Kagame.
They are regularly accused of human rights abuses, including
civilian massacres. And this week FDLR fighters burned homes and
schools in North Kivu's Walikale district during clashes with a
rival militia group, according to United Nations-sponsored
Their presence along the border has also served as a pretext
for Rwandan military interventions in Congo, helping fuel nearly
two decades of conflict there that have killed millions.
Friday's ceremony was attended by representatives of Congo's
U.N. peacekeeping mission, known as MONUSCO, the South African
Development Community (SADC), and the International Conference
on the Great Lakes Region.
The FDLR has on previous occasions said it was ready to
disarm, only to later backtrack. And most officials remained
cautious, however, and shied away from making pledges to support
talks with the Rwandan government.
"There will be no negotiations with the FDLR. They have
offered to surrender, and we will see if this process is
effective," Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende said.
Over 25,000 FDLR fighters have demobilized since 2002, but
those numbers have slowed to a trickle in recent years. The
estimated 2,000 remaining rebels have hidden themselves among
communities in Congo's dense forests.
Last year, bolstered by a special Intervention Brigade with
a robust mandate to carry out offensive operations, MONUSCO
launched a military campaign against the remaining armed groups
operating in the volatile, mineral-rich borderlands.
"We hope that the commanders join this process (of
demobilization), not just the militiamen, because we have a
mandate to neutralize armed groups and want to see an end to the
FDLR in Congo," said one U.N. official, who asked not to be
(Writing by Peter Jones; Editing by Joe Bavier and Lisa