A rebel force responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) has resorted to kidnapping Congolese villagers in a bid to beef up its numbers.
This was revealed Tuesday by the former Governor of North Kivu, Eugene Serufuli on the sidelines of an energy conference in Kigali.
Speaking to The New Times, the now head of DRC’s Societe Nationale d’Electricite (SNEL), the Congolese national electricity utility, Serufuli pointed out that what people might assume to be a new trend, is actually not.
“That is not something they have started today. The FDLR have done recruitment in all possible ways – they even held the population hostage,” Serufuli said, noting that kidnapping and forced abductions of Congolese and, Rwandan refugees was commonplace.
The FDLR or ex-FAR/ Interahamwe are remnants of masterminds of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi which cost the lives of over one million people.
The DRC as well accuses the rebels of spreading their killing into its volatile eastern region where they have been established for the last 15 years.
During the January-February joint Rwanda-DRC military campaign (operation Umoja Wetu) to rout the rebels from eastern DRC, Serufuli and others embarked on a mission in North Kivu to sensitize the local population against the rebels.
“You know, very many people wish to return home. There are many refugees, people living in the jungle with them (FDLR) and they prevent them from coming home, there are even many FDLR fighters, very many, who wish to abandon them and return home but you find that there is a leadership which holds them back,” he revealed.
FDLR has been known for raping, burning houses, pillaging, and killing Congolese civilians.
During the short-lived (mid January to mid February) Umoja Wetu operation, over 800 combatants and 5,000 dependants were repatriated. Their current raids and killings are nothing other than reprisal attacks on a population that largely denounces them.
“As the operations went on, there were messages being passed on as well. There were politicians, legislators and other senior people who all stood up, moved to mobilize and ask the FDLR to lay down their arms and stop the war because it would lead them nowhere,” Serufuli recounted. He, however, observes that there was an inopportune lull in operations when the Rwandan army pulled out of the DRC.
“When they pulled out, Congolese forces remained on their own and it was necessary that they start reorganizing themselves – especially since there was the reintegration of the other former armed groups such as Mai-Mai and CNDP troops.
“During that time, it was as if the pressure that operation Umoja Wetu had put on the FDLR eased,” he noted, explaining how the rebels then managed to sneak back from their forced jungle retreat.
“They came back, started displacing people, which is why you currently hear people crying that they are being killed and houses burnt.
Serufuli is optimistic that the Congolese army has now reorganized, and that progress is being made in the current operation – operation Kimia II – jointly conducted by the Congolese forces with MONUC assistance.
“The way I see things, in the days to come, things might change, heading in the right direction.”