FDLR regrouping to attack Rwanda

The impact of 1994 Genocide to Rwanda and the surrounding region have been devastatingly negative. Over the last thirteen years, there has been widespread conflict in central Africa: a serious uprising in northwestern Rwanda, two major wars in the neighboring DRC and ten years of civil war in Burundi.

The impact of 1994 Genocide to Rwanda and the surrounding region have been devastatingly negative. Over the last thirteen years, there has been widespread conflict in central Africa: a serious uprising in northwestern Rwanda, two major wars in the neighboring DRC and ten years of civil war in Burundi.

In the aftermath of the Genocide, officials of the former government, ex-FAR, and Interahamwe fled to the DRC, leading more than a million Rwandans into exile. They carried with them their Genocidal ideology and their weapons.

They received government and local Congolese people support that broadened their base for continued resistance against the Rwandan Government.

They continued with the Genocide this time targeting Congolese Tutsis (Banyamulenge and other Rwandophones in North Kivu Province) and continue up until now to loot, rape and kill innocent civilians in the whole region, while displacing several others. From the refugee camps, the Genocidal forces acquired more weapons and conducted cross-border raids.

In 1997 and 1998, ex-FAR and Interahamwe supported by thousands of new recruits, crossed from the DRC and led an insurrection in northwestern Rwanda and singled out Tutsis and Hutus accused of cooperating with the Government to be attacked and killed.

Despite Rwanda’s calls for the camps to be shut down, international attention was focused more on caring for the refugees in the militarised camps than separating the Genocidaires from ordinary refugees.

The few attempts that were made to shut down the camps met with resistance from the ex-FAR/Interahamwe who were using the refugees as a human shield and for getting logistical/financial support and a recruitment base.

In response to a lack of commitment on the part of the Congolese Government regarding the principle of the obligation to counter the threat to international peace and security – and the threat of genocide – posed by the ex-FAR/Interahamwe and other militias using DRC soil as a base from which to launch attacks into neighboring countries, Rwanda and other countries entered twice in the DRC (1996, 1998).

It is important to note that Rwanda entered DRC to preempt a major attack by the ex-FAR/ Interahamwe who were re-organising and re-arming with the support of Mobutu regime.

The second Congo war in 1998 at one point involved six African nations (Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia and, briefly, Chad) and a host of rebel movements and other local armed groups.

Genocidal activities in the DRC caused numerous consequences: increasing resentment of local populations against Congolese Tutsi followed by killings, Rwanda’s intervention in the DRC, and increased instability in eastern Congo.

As a result of the propaganda led by the DRC government and its allies, Rwanda’s anti-genocide efforts were de-legitimised when some countries alleged that Rwanda had territorial and economic ambitions in the DRC, ignoring the threat posed by the Genocidal forces and the irresponsibility of the international community.

Following the 1994 Rwanda Genocide, trans-boundary genocidal acts constitute another major threat to the peace, stability and economic development across the continent.

Between August and September 1997, insurgents from DRC massacred Genocide survivors in the northwestern region of Rwanda.

The massive infiltrations of the ex-FAR/Interahamwe militias resulted into the destabilisation of the northwestern part of the country.

Selective massacres continued to target Tutsis in the buses and schools and Hutus who refused to cooperate with the Genociders.

On December 11, 1997, hundreds of Congolese Tutsis at Mudende refugee camp in Rwanda were again slaughtered. The 15,000 survivors were shifted to a new camp in Byumba, Rwanda.

Currently, a Genocidal force (FDLR) of more than 10,000 strong remains, have exported and continue to propagate and to spread the Genocide ideology in the DRC and elsewhere.

On August 13, 2004, a combined force of armed FDLR, FNL (Burundi) and Mai Mai (DRC) combatants massacred at least 152 Congolese Banyamurenge civilians and wounded another 106 at Gatumba refugee camp, near Bujumbura, the Capital of Burundi.

A UN report in May 2005 detailed more than 1,700 summary executions, rapes and hostage-taking committed by the FDLR in 2004. The FDLR unleashed a reign of terror and ethnic cleansing against the Congolese Tutsis in North Kivu.

It is also worth noting that the presence of the FLDR or ex-FAR/Interahamwe in the DRC has given rise to the formation of various rebel movements in the eastern DRC notably Nkunda’s CNDP, Mai Mai and Pareco-Fap. 

The current escalation of conflict in North Kivu is to a large extent attributed to the presence of FLDR/ex-far/Interahamwe. The cost of the Genocide in terms of loss of lives, human and social capitals has been enormous, and the psychological impact of the violence will take a long time to heal.

In 100 days, more than 1,000,000 people were murdered and hundreds of thousands of women were raped. Today, 85,000 households are still headed by children, women-headed households are prevalent, and orphan hood is widespread.

The legacy of Genocide touches almost every sector of Rwandan society: survivors, the Government, perpetrators and refugees who returned to Rwanda after 1994.

In addition to recurring trauma suffered by many from their experiences, survivors of the Genocide face multiple difficulties. Many are impoverished and face complex health problems, such as HIV/Aids, as a direct result of the violence perpetrated against them during the Genocide.

Today, some Genocide survivors are threatened with violence, attacked or killed by former perpetrators of the genocide, and for many, a climate of fear persists.

Rebuilding their lives alongside individuals responsible for murder and rape is a difficult reality faced by all genocide survivors in Rwanda.

The Genocide in Rwanda had security implications both to Rwanda herself and the great lakes region as a whole. After the Genocide, much of the leadership and many of the troops and militias of Genocide had escaped armed into the DRC where they had and still have unlimited access to weapons and military trainings.

Politically, Genocide left Rwandan society totally divided along ethnic lines. The continued existence of the Genocide forces such as FDLE and its associated groups undermines reconciliation, government programmes such as decentralisation, investments etc.

They have continued with their divisive propaganda throughout the region. This has consequently forced the Government of Rwanda to spend time and resources to counter negative propaganda by these Genocidaires.

Since 1995, widespread demands by the Government of Rwanda, neighboring Governments and the OAU/AU for the international community to urgently separate the Genocidaires from refugees, disarm and repatriate them went unheeded. The Genocidaires openly declared their intent to wage a war against Rwanda.

They have enjoyed comfort and acquired trainings and military supplies by the Government of Congo and have continued hunting and killing Tutsis in Congo and raiding into Rwanda.

The ex-FAR/Interahamwe (FDLR) have twice attacked Rwanda this year: In March, 2007 and on September 30, 2007 after crossing FARDC 9th Brigade defence lines deployed along DRC-Rwanda boarder at Busasamana, Rubavu district.

The failure of the mixing process in DRC and the fighting between Nkunda and FARDC has strengthened the group. The ex-FAR/Interahamwe/FLDR is doing all it can to maintain interethnic conflicts in eastern DRC, which will help it to survive possible forced disarmament.

Currently, the FDLR is regrouping, recruiting and reorganising for launching attacks against Rwanda. The group’s continued ideology to exterminate Tutsis is a worrying situation because the killings would also spillover to Rwanda as has happened in the past.

The instability helps the FLDR to acquire more weapons and a vast territory it could use as a rear base to attack Rwanda.

The worst case scenario would be if the FDLR attacks Rwanda because this could lead to an all-out conflict and strain relations between Rwanda and the DRC, with negative consequences to the region that was recovering from the past conflict.

The writer is the Minister of Justice


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