For more than a decade now, the United Nations Security Council has been churning out one resolution after another, calling for the disbandment of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
But the militia group has continued its operations unhindered, despite being cited as the author of countless atrocities against the civilian population in eastern DR Congo.
Many have questioned the reasons behind the UN’s failure to act on its word, despite having over 20,000 armed troops under its command, with a robust mandate to use force to disarm all armed groups. Does the FDLR have a guardian angel hovering over it?
In an attempt to justify its existence, FDLR’s backers have not been idle; their key argument is that most members of the militia are not more than 30 years old and, therefore, could not have taken part in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. The only point this serves is to reduce the genocide ideology that forms the basis of the FDLR to a question of age.
But this attempt to sanitise the rebel group has shifted into top gear and brought on board some “opposition” figures, that might even be labelled as ‘digital” opposition whose only claim to opposition fame is their Internet presence.
Many wonder if the recent spat between Rwanda and Tanzania, caused by President Jakaya Kikwete’s call for dialogue between Rwanda and the FDLR–which Rwanda dismissed–is not what has galvanised the forgotten opposition in Europe to jump on the FDLR bandwagon, taking it as a cue that they have a protector in Kikwete?
The plot thickens even further when a man claiming to speak on behalf of a faction of the PS-Imberakuri said they had merged with FDLR to form what they called Front Commun pour la Libération du Rwanda (United Front for the Liberation of Rwanda) FCLR-Ubumwe.
Was the FDLR trying to undergo another identity change? It has travelled down that road before, when the going got tough.
It began in 1994 when the former political and military (ex-FAR) apparatus responsible for the Genocide was routed and fled to DR Congo, then Zaire. They set up RDR in the confines of their new home; the sprawling refugee camps close to the Rwandan border.
When Rwanda disbanded the camps two years later, RDR’s political wing migrated to Europe, while the military and Interahamwe militia melted deep into the Congolese jungles and millions of refugees repatriated. Today, government estimates that more than three million returned.
Then began another long bout of insurgency, this time they referred to themselves as ALIR (Liberation Army of Rwanda). Their atrocities would have been ignored had they not stepped on a giant’s toes when they kidnapped and executed some American tourists in Bwindi National Park, across the border in Uganda.
The US branded them a terrorist group. Now they were fair game for the drones, Afghanistan style.
That is when they went back to the drawing board, erased ALIR and replaced it with FDLR. Simple change of acronym and it was back to business as usual.
So, because of UN sanctions and threats (however empty they remain today) of using force to disband them, they have morphed into FCLR and it did not take a lot of imagination; they only replaced letter D with C when they reeled in the PS-Imberakuri faction.
Now the indefatigable former prime minister, Faustin Twagiramungu has joined the parade and thrown his lot with the new-look FDLR.
Then came a bombshell from an online publication; News of Rwanda, which alleged that even before the ink had dried on the FDLR pact, Twagiramungu had jetted into Dar es Salaam as the guest of the President Kikwete.
That upon his return from Dar, the former Prime Minister then flew to Lyon, France, where he boasted about his “state” visit.
Twagiramungu’s party had not yet denied it at the time of writing this, but News of Rwanda’s revelations have elicited a strongly worded response from the Tanzanian government against the “... malicious and untrue reports, published over the weekend by the Rwanda Government owned-newspaper, The News of Rwan da...”
While the Tanzanian government, through its embassy in Rwanda, denied that Twagiramungu or senior FDLR members were ever in Tanzania, but looking at the chronology of events, one can’t help questioning the coincidences.
During the last week of January 2013, it emerged that Maj. Gen. Bigaruka, the then deputy commanding officer of FDRL (2nd to Silvestre Mudacumura) had been in Tanzania to meet defence and foreign affairs officials.
The Kikwete proposal
Thereafter, President Kikwete pronounces that Rwanda should engage the FDLR in talks. In June, a couple of months later, It was again reported that opposition elements had gathered at the Tanzanian Embassy in Brussels in support of President Kikwete’s remarks.
According to reliable sources, it was then allegedly followed by a meeting of the Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Benard Membe, and Rwandan fugitive, Theogene Rudasingwa, in Washington DC.
After the above events, comes the formation of FCLR, Twagiramungu’s reported travel to Tanzania and his meeting in France where he acknowledged his visit to Tanzania.
By looking at the trend of events, a disturbing picture emerges. It looks like instead of bringing to an end the FDLR mess and its sympathisers, the terrorist group is enjoying high-profile support.
The failure to address FDLR continues to remain largely unchallenged. Once again, their impunity continues and FCLR waits for Kikwete’s wish for talks with Rwanda to materialise.
Conventional wisdom would have been that if anyone was to hold talks with the FDLR, it would be the Congolese government because the militia is implanted there and secondly, it’s the Congolese population suffering.
What ought to come to an end - immediately - is impunity. FDLR’s impunity in killing and raping innocent civilians, UN lack of accountability even when faced with decades of failure using a staggering budget in billions of dollars.
Any and all support or sympathy with such a group, would in normal circumstances elicit second thoughts as it is the equivalent to condoning both their past and recent killings of innocent people.
Nothing looks what it seems, but there is definitely something abnormal about this entire FDLR saga.