Former combatants, who defected from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), have accused their top leaders of spreading false information aimed at tarnishing Rwanda’s image in their quest to gain support.
They made the accusations yesterday while at Mutobo Demobilisation and Reintegration Centre in Musanze , as they spoke about their experience in the Congolese jungles.
Lt. Alphonse Senyoni, a former clerk at FOCA-FDLR secretariat in Walikale, revealed that top rebel leaders had convinced the combatants that a new chapter of Gacaca courts had been opened to try cases for the returning ex-combatants.
“Many fighters are brainwashed into believing that there is no law and order in Rwanda. We were told that a specific Gacaca court will try us for the crimes we committed in the Congo,’’ Senyoni revealed.
“Since the Operation Umoja Wetu, we lost our bases, and income generating activities were destroyed which has led to the increase in defections...but when word gets out that you want to defect, they kill you”.
Umoja Wetu was a joint operation mounted early last year by DRC and Rwandan armed forces with an aim of flushing out FDLR militias.
Giving an example of some of the fighters who were killed as they tried to defect, Senyoni cited one Major Mpirano who was killed at Ntoto, Walikale after it was suspected that he wanted to cross into Rwanda.
He added that the rebels have mounted road blocks and intensified patrols to detect those that want to return home.
Cpl Felicien Munyampundu, a former chief escort to Theoneste Nzeyimana, who is reportedly the FDLR political commissioner in South Kivu, said the rebels had been asked to prepare for war which ‘would break out in Rwanda after the presidential elections.’
He noted that whereas MONUSCO (UN mission in Congo) repatriates combatants, there is no direct organisation to help civilian refugees in the remote jungles.
Sergeant Leaonadis Kanani, from Okapi Battalion, Kilembwe, Fizi zone in South Kivu, said that having joined the army in 1989, he regretted the time wasted in rebel activities in Congo.
He appealed to those still holed up in Congo to send their children back to Rwanda to attend school.
“FDRL leaders levy taxes on goods in markets in Mwenga (Bukavu), they own Coltan and diamond mines in Walikale, they erect road blocks along roads leading to their strongholds and escaping is a nightmare,’’ Kanani said.
The ex-combatants pledged to join other Rwandans in working to promote national unity and participating in the development of the country.