KATEKU - More than 100 armed Rwandan rebels from a group linked to the 1994 genocide in their homeland turned themselves in Friday in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a decision welcomed by the UN.
The rebels are members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) which includes remnants of the militia that carried out the genocide of at least 800,000 ethnic Tutsis according to the world body and which is now based in DRC.
The 105 men, most of them young, surrendered with their weapons at a grammar school in Kateku, about 220 kilometres (140 miles) north of Goma, capital of North Kivu province.
Nord-Kivu governor Julien Paluku said the surrender was the first step in a process which should be wound up "within 22 days", with the ex-rebels given a choice to return to Rwanda or ask for political asylum.
The UN mission in DRC (MONUSCO) welcomed the move but cautioned that it would take time to see if the rebel movement was serious about disarming.
"For the first day, this is a good start, but more can be done," General Abdallah Wafi, MONUSCO's number two, told AFP.
"We are encouraging the process and have mobilised all our [military and logistic] resources but only coming days will tell us if the process is credible and serious," he added. "For the time being it is too early" for cheers.
Of the 105 rebels, MONUSCO eventually only transferred 97 to Kanyabayonga, south of Kateku. "Some disappeared as soon as they were to climb onto [MONUSCO] trucks," said Wafi.
In Kanyabayonga, the men were to meet their families "within the next 48 hours", General Delphin Kahimbi, who oversaw the surrender on behalf of the Congolese army, told AFP.
The FDLR has around 1,500 men, according to UN estimates, or 4,000, according to Kigali. They are scattered across Kivu province, where they have been accused of widespread violence and rights abuses.
Earlier attempts to settle the FDLR problem had failed.
The group's armed wing again promised to lay down arms in late 2013 but the Rwandan government has refused to hold talks.
In April the FDLR said it was committed to political negotiations and a peaceful resolution for Rwanda's problems, and had no intention of starting conflicts or creating insecurity in Rwanda.
The DRC and Rwanda have for years accused each other of using the FDLR for their own interests.
Fill in your Name and Email Address to receive a Free Newsletter
Armed Rwandan rebels surrender in east DR Congo