The Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo is a hot bed for armed rebel groups engaged in a geostrategic power struggle for the control of minerals and territory. One such group is the FDLR which is a rebel group from Rwanda that fled after the 1994 genocide made up of primarily Hutu refugees. This group is considered an enemy to Rwandans and the current ruling party in Rwanda seeks to exterminate this group. A few international actors have called for the Government of Rwanda to negotiate with this enemy group in order to bring about peace and stability in the region but President Kagame of Rwanda has stated that he will not bow to this pressure.
There is much speculation and rumors about this group of rebels and what their purpose is. Some have returned to Rwanda to seek forgiveness and be repatriated back into society. President Kagame has granted this on occasion for former FDLR members and even included some of the members into government positions.
This reporter was able to reach a representative for the FDLR in Europe who was willing to answer a few questions:
JF: What is the goal of the FDLR? You have lived in exile for nearly twenty years.
FDLR: To liberate Rwanda from RPF Dictatorship, restore democracy and promote reconciliation.
JF: Is it true that the FDLR is working with FARDC and the UN forces in Eastern DRC as reported by the Government of Rwanda?
FDLR: No, FARDC has Tanzanian and the entire SADC under UN forces behind them. They don’t need FDLR.
JF: Why is Rwanda accusing the FLDR of collaborating with FARDC and the UN forces and have even sent a letter to the UN regarding this matter?
FDLR: they lost an “Element of surprise” on assault on Goma. Last time they walked in. This time they met a different FARDC. They know FDLR as tactically proficient soldiers, so they can’t believe FARDC could pull something like that.
The speculation that continues about the FLDR was also reported in a publication that reviewed the UN GoE leaked report that the FDLR is splintering apart. The report by Afroamerica.net stated that, According to the UN Experts’s leaked report, “the FDLR suffers from internal divisions and a weak hierarchy that lacks the capability to command and control the organization’s entire operations. The movement’s leadership is divided between hardliners such as Mudacumura who want to continue the armed struggle, and moderates belonging to younger generations.”
On July 16, 2013 the FLDR released a press statement reporting that this information is not accurate and that they continue to be a strong and viable force in Eastern DRC. They stated in part that:
“In response to the article on the site afroamerica.net dated July 5, 2013, the Democratic Liberation of Rwanda, FDLR forces acronym, would like to inform the public, the international community in general and the Rwandan community in the diaspora and inside Rwanda in particular the FDLR still exist, and they are stronger now, more than they have ever been before.
The FDLR is organized in several divisions, within some of which are inside Rwanda, and two others one based in South Kivu and the other in North Kivu. Each one of these divisions has its own well trained operational staff, and these divisions are combined under one joint command led by General MUSENYERI Achilles.
The FDLRs are fine and well-structured from high to lowest level, and their armed wing, the Force Combattantes Abacunguzi (FOCA) has a strong insightful command, led by the commander of the FOCA. The command is determined more than ever, to force the dictatorial power of the RPF Inkotanyi led by General Paul Kagame and his click to accept the democratic system in the country, and the freedom of the Rwandan people, in all its diversity, to express themselves freely, and choose their own leaders.”
The FDLR addressed talks with Kagame in this press statement by stating:
“The FDLR has firmly supported the proposal of the head of the Tanzanian government and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium to encourage the dictatorial government of General Paul Kagame to accept negotiations with them to find a lasting peace in our country and consequently in the whole Great Lakes region OF Africa. One has to notice that these Belgian and Tanzanian officials have not made this suggestion if they were not convinced that our organization is real, fine and strong.
In conclusion, the FDLR urge all forces of the Rwandan opposition whatsoever from inside the country or outside Rwanda to stand, walk and act as one in order to reach a brighter output.
The combination of efforts is appropriate to fight against the common evil that is the dictatorial system of the RPF and its President.”
The fight in the Great Lakes region of Africa rages on and each rebel group has made statements that they are stronger than ever. Time will tell which groups survive and which groups change names and re-form into other groups. The FDLR has been a constant in the region for nineteen years and desires to return home. They have stated that they are willing to negotiate with President Kagame but Kagame made it clear that he is not willing to engage in talks with them.
By Jennifer Fierberg