Until 2007, Denis Murego, worked as umucengezi—an infiltrator who gathered intelligence information for the DR Congo-based militias who perpetrated the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
His main role was supplying food to infiltrators of the Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) militia who often sneaked into the country from their safe haven in DR Congo.
Today, Murego is a member of KVCS, a cooperative that manages street parking, thanks to the rehabilitation efforts of the Rwanda Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission (RDRC) that has so far resettled over 10,000 former militia members.
Between 1995 and1999, they carried out several incursions inside the country. To date, their activities have been largely contained even though there have been isolated cases of grenade attacks in the recent past attributed to them
Some are more extremist than others, says Murego who rose through the ranks to become a commanding officer of one of the FDLR units.
“It is composed of militia interahamwe, the former members of the government forces, known as ex-FAR and a large number of undisciplined youth who would execute whatever their leaders told them without thinking twice,” says Murego.
“We used to send them for intelligence missions, but we would always get reports that they were involved in killing the Tutsi. I agree that some commanders were extremists and intent on exterminating the Tutsi, but for me, I was interested in fighting the RDF with the aim of capturing power,” he said.
Murego joined the FDLR in 1996 from the volcanoes, after the massacre of the Tutsi and other returnees from DR Congo who had resettled in Mudende, Rubavu District.
“At that time, I was still at home. When the incident occurred, Rwanda Defence Forces fought off the attackers, and we fled our villages in disarray. In the volcanoes, I met my former colleagues in ex-FAR who had joined FDLR. They said it was not acceptable for me [not to be with them] and continue living with the Tutsi whom I fought [in the past]. I was forced to follow them.”
He was immediately appointed commander of Division V, which was in charge of providing food to the infiltrators during their missions.
In Rwanda, abacengenzi operated in three units called sectors. They included Lima, Zulu and Mike, all operating in districts bordering DR Congo such as Rubavu, Karongi and Ngororero.
Some of their heinous activities include the killing of the Tutsi in Kibilira, the home area of Callixte Mudacumura, the FDLR leader. They also carried out the Nyange and Muramba secondary school killings in Ngororero District.
In 2000, Murego moved to the FDLR headquarters in DR Congo from where he operated until 2007 when he voluntarily surrendered and sought amnesty.
Apart from fighting them whenever they attempt to cause insecurity in the country, the government offers abacengezi an option of abandoning rebellion and returning home peacefully.
Those who surrender peacefully are taken to Mutobo Demobilisation and Reintegration Centre before being integrated in society. However, those who had a role in the Genocide may be held to account.
Jean Sayinzoga, the Chairman of RDRC, said over 10,000 people have gone through the process that involves three months of training.
Upon reintegration, the former rebels receive start up funds and benefit from other programs meant to help demobilised RDF soldiers. Such benefits include medication and shelter.
They are also free to join cooperatives, regardless of their background.
“The objective is to see all the Rwandans united and participating in the country‘s development,” said Sayinzoga, in response to some who argue that abacengezi should have limited rights because of their past misdeeds against their own people.
Sayinzoga said some still harbour Genocide ideology.
“We still have Genocide ideology among the abacengezi, but the solution is to use the media and international organisations that reach the Congo, to disseminate information on Rwanda and to sensitize them against Genocide ideology,” he said.