The importance of keeping up the pressure and finally making sure that the FDLR militia group is completely eliminated was part of yesterday’s discussions between Defence Minister, James Kabarebe, and Ambassador Stephen Rapp, the US Ambassador-at-Large for war crimes issues.
Ambassador Rapp told reporters that the reason for his current stop in Kigali was because he had just visited the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where the threat of the FDLR, the ex-FAR, the Interahamwe, remains.
FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) is a militia group categorised by the UN as a terrorist group.
“We discussed the importance of continued operations to eliminate this threat to eastern Congo and Rwanda,” Rapp said.
“Keeping up the pressure on FDLR involves military operations supported by the United Nations, and by the Congolese army, to go after the FDLR and to defeat them and create a situation where they surrender and return to Rwanda”.
He noted that after operations that have taken place in the last two years, and a great new cooperative relationship between Rwanda and the DRC, the FDLR was degraded probably by two thirds.
Thousands of FDLR elements; militia and dependents, have voluntarily surrendered and repatriated to Rwanda.
But, he noted that military pressure on negative forces in eastern DRC reduced in the past few months as the DRC army reorganised.
“From discussions I had over there (in DRC), it looks like reorganisation is close to being completed and those operations can become strong again,” Rapp said.
“And, we indicated the importance of that to our government and discussed ways in which we can support that effort to eliminate this threat to the people of the Congo and the people of Rwanda”.
The diplomat said his government would continue to provide whatever support is needed, and that is appropriate to put an end to armed groups that are ‘out there’ preying on the civilian population, murdering and raping innocent individuals, which is a hallmark of the FDLR.
Meanwhile, Rapp, who is a former Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, said that his government is committed to bringing to book all individuals accused of committing atrocities.
“We’re actively pursuing cases in the United States to send people back to Rwanda to face justice as we did in the case of Jean-Marie Vianney Mudahinyuka, the infamous Zuzu, leader of the Interahamwe,” Rapp said.
He acknowledged that there are other cases in the US where people have come in and acquired citizenship based upon false representations.
The envoy reiterated his government’s support for the prosecution in Germany of the president and vice president of the FDLR, Ignace Murwanashyaka and Straton Musoni, respectively, and the prosecution by the ICC of Callixte Mbarushimana.
“This is very high priority in my office.”
Murwanashyaka and Musoni were arrested in Germany in November 2009.
The United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues is the head of the Office of War Crimes Issues in the United States Department of State.