· Tanzania and Uganda cited as transit centres for FDLR weapons, recruits
KIGALI - An explosive report from a UN group of experts has exposed a network of allies comprising of individuals, companies, charities and governments that have aided the survival of FDLR by supplying the ragtag rebel outfit with arms in exchange for Congo’s minerals.
FDLR, or the so-called Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, is a militia group, today categorized by the US State Department as a terrorist outfit. It is largely made up of former interahamwe militias and ex-government forces responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The UN experts’ report that was leaked to the media ahead of its unveiling, says FDLR rebels have been able to use vast international networks to bolster their supply of arms and recruit extra soldiers.
The network includes Spanish charities, Ukrainian arms dealers, corrupt African officials and even secret North Korean weapon suppliers.
The UN experts say they tracked down 240 calls between Germany-detained FDLR leader Ignace Murwanashyaka, and his military commanders in DRC. These commanders also maintained contacts in 25 countries in Europe and America.
“Efforts to uproot the group whose members are accused for masterminding the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda have failed largely due to the FDLR’s ability to fund its campaigns through the illegal international mineral trade,” the report says.
The report that comes out days after Germany arrested top leaders of the notorious group, hits at the European nation alongside France for allowing these fugitives to operate from their territories, directing military operations in Congo in an open violation of UN sanctions.”
Two Spanish charities - the Fundació S’Olivar and Inshuti - which are funded by the government of the Islas Baleares Province and linked to the Roman Catholic Church - have been providing financial support to the FDLR, the report says.
This report, short of any serious accusations on Rwanda instead hits at her neigbours Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi for illegal acts that aid and abate the survival of the rebel outfit.
It says that since this year, FDLR and RUD-URUNANA have been recruiting hundreds of combatants from Rwandan refugee camps in Uganda, and in particular the camps of Nyakivale and Cyaka, “under the noses of the Ugandan military which is supposed to have been preventing this.”
“Ugandan officials facilitate an illegal trade in gold mined from eastern Congolese sites controlled and taxed by the FDLR,” the report says.
The report accuses Tanzania of making ‘significant deliveries’ of weapons and ammunition via Lake Tanganyika to the FDLR, and says Tanzanians are motivated by the need to retain influence over illegal trade with Congo.
“The FDLR maintain a relationship with Gen. Adolphe Nshimirimana, Burundi’s head of intelligence,” the report says.
They described as “suspicious” an attempt by Burundian officials to in Malaysia 40,000 Steyr AUG assault rifles, which exceeded the needs of the Burundian police.
It singles out a Bujumbura-based businessman Mutoka Ruganyira, a good friend of Gen. Nshimirimana, who plays a key role in the illegal export of gold from Eastern Congo.
The damning report castigates MONUC for doing virtually nothing in the Congo and says it is partly responsible for the on-going mess.
“Companies are buying minerals from FDLR held territories in eastern DRC while middlemen are smuggling millions of dollars in gold to Dubai every year,” the report says.
It calls upon the international community to step up measures to stifle FDLR’s support network which includes hard-line militant fugitives based in Europe and America as well as foreign sympathizers in catholic charities.
The current developments come just days after reliable sources revealed the existence of a ‘highly guarded secret and sensitive operation’ being coordinated by some in the UN mission in the DRC (MONUC), to assist the FDLR.
It was alleged early this month that MONUC officials were colluding to bring in medical assistance to a reportedly ailing FDLR commander, Maj. Gen. Sylvestre Mudacumura.
MONUC vehemently denied the allegations.