Long before the advent of the colonialists, there lived in Rwanda a people called Abanyarwanda. These people had three distinct social classes: Abahutu, Abatutsi and Abatwa, but they spoke the same language, and shared the same culture.
The conflict and tragedy that later befell their country trace their roots to a colonial racial ideology that pitted them against one another and destroyed their socio-cultural fabric. But today, these people are together again, their bonds stronger than ever, fortified by the knowledge that they are one.
To the Rwanda’s west, lies the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), also formerly known as Congo Leopoldville, Zaire and Congo Kinshasa as the mood of its leaders so often dictated over the years from independence.
The fortunes or misfortunes of these two countries were irrevocably mixed up by their geographical neighborliness.
Now, when the Belgians first arrived on the Rwandan scene, they began their infamous “divide and rule” strategy. They decided that the Tutsi and the Hutu were two different races.
This seed of discord relentlessly grew over the years, matured, with the introduction of identity cards which redefined the Rwandan people racial descent, thus providing crucial support to the architects and the killers of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, as they sought their victims.
What is the FDLR?
Genocide began on April 7, 1994 when Hutu extremists began purging the government of their political opponents. Both Tutsis and Hutu moderates were killed.
Over several weeks, the violence spread all over the country. Men, women, and children were murdered. Because bullets were hard to come by, most victims were killed by traditional weapons, mostly machetes and studded clubs.
As the brutal killings went on, the world stood idly by and just watched. The 100 days genocide left over a million Tutsis and Hutu sympathizers dead.
In July1994, after the liberation war, when the Rwanda Patriotic Front/Army stopped the genocide, the defeated Rwandan Government officials, soldiers and militia, killers who had participated in the genocide all fled across border into the (DRC).
They took with them over one million and half civilians, mostly Hutu who had been convinced that the RPF would take revenge on them.
The FDLR or Democratic Forces for Liberation of Rwanda are Rwanda rebel remnants of those responsible for the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, leftovers of the militia responsible for spreading the genocide throughout the country.
They are now still operating from East DR Congo committing atrocities against the local Congolese population.
As Rwanda continues to struggle with the legacy of genocide and the dark part of her recent history, it has never stopped calling for the voluntary repatriation of its citizens, and to fight for their security and welfare.
Security and welfare of the people have always been her concern, just like those thousands who laid down their weapons and repatriated, can testify.
For a very long time, Rwanda has been calling for the International Community as well as its other regional partners’ support for a final solution to dismantle the FDLR and the threat that the group represents.
However, nothing has been done. For over twenty years now, these rebels have continued to play cat and mouse games with powerful armies of the world and region with impunity.
Even though the FDLR have of recent been militarily crippled, the group remains an element of the conflict now in the DRC and Rwanda and the region, especially as a genocide ideology monger.
As the minister of Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo recently said, “...FDLR had been turned into an instrument of hate to Rwanda, used by anyone who would wish to do wrong to our country.”
So the threat is real and it should be removed.
Ever since the FDLR started operations in the DRC in 2000, insecurity in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo became rife characterised by wanton killings, rape and arson as well as allowing other armed groups to perpetuate mass atrocities against civilians.
The conflict-ridden nation has an estimated six million people or more who have been killed from war-induced causes, and other atrocious human rights abuses and violations that have created a horrific humanitarian crisis in the DRC and the neighborhood.
It can be safely asserted that from the very day the defeated genocidires set foot on the Congolese soil in 1994, the people of Eastern Congo have never had relative peace.
Looking at it this way, the UN has continuously turned a blind eye to the plight of the Congolese citizens by ignoring the atrocities committed by the FDLR as well as providing them with emergency relief supplies, it has emerged.
On July 2, last year, it was agreed upon by a SADC-ICGLR Summit together with the UN and the African Union, that a decisive military strike was to dislodge the intransigent group on January 2, this year. The ultimatum is long gone but nothing has been done.
The way it looks now to most people in this region, the whole problem of the FDLR primarily lies with the DR Congo and the Rwanda governments. It is so clear that only Rwanda and the DRC have more at stake in wanting an end to these war-peddlers than anybody else in the equation.
Rwanda and the DRC can rout the FDLR. This was done before. In 2009, the joint Rwanda-DRC strike against the rebels ended rather successfully. The rebels were not totally defeated but they were militarily weakened.
“Umoja Wetu” campaign in 2009 has been hailed by many, as a testimony to the fact that Rwanda and the DRC can go a long way to forge a common future of peace and mutual respect.
This, without the assistance of Momusco, FIB or the so called international community, who, it has been amply demonstrated, care less about their concerns.
The writer is an editor at Izuba Rirashe