FDLR: Kagame politically surviving on a permanent state of war in the region

The January 2nd, 2015 deadline has passed without the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR in its french acronym) completely disarming. That should have been expected if one considers that these rebels are protecting themselves and Hutu refugee populations surviving miserably in the areas they control.

Despite this, on Thursday January 8th, 2015 UNSC has continued pressuring FDLR to unconditionally disarm, or face forced disarmament. The Council did no more than stressing what the US envoy Russel D. Feingold had expressed at the eve of 2015.

“The Security Council further stresses that ending the threat of the FDLR, including through robust military action by the FARDC and MONUSCO through its Force Intervention Brigade in cooperation with the whole of MONUSCO as per OP4 (b) of resolution 2147 (2014), is a critical and necessary component of civilian protection, and expresses its intention to take into account progress made in ending the threat of the FDLR in assessing next steps in the Great Lakes.”

But sorry Sirs of UNSC. FDLR is not a further threat to regional stability than the constant DRC invaders plus their sponsors combined. Apparently, scrambling Congolese minerals needs scapegoats. For many years, the Hutu rebels have been in the way of those seeking to exploit Congolese minerals and eventually split Eastern Congo from the rest of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The truth is that the plundering of Congolese resources and covering such objective with the intention of bringing stability in the region by removing FDLR in the way falls into the strategy of manipulation of public opinion. US, UK, EU and other powers with economic interests in DRC want to finish the Hutu rebel group as this has been attempted several times since 1996 with the first invasion of the Democratic Republic of Congo by the coalition of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. The UN Mapping Report published on October 1st, 2010 reveals some critical facts of the issue.

FDLR, on its own initiative, since many years entered the process of voluntary surrendering weapons and demobilising its soldiers. The rebel group has shown to Rwanda and neighboring countries and the international community its desire of peace in the region. But disarming was also for the rebels a way of seeking help from the same interested parties to pressure Rwanda and bring it to a negotiation table. Unfortunately, beneficiaries of the current status quo of permanent state of war do not want to hear about dialogue between Kagame and FDLR, though negotiation approach is being used in all other conflicts, but not this one.

The case of FDLR that many who are following the situation closely consider its members as freedom fighters is different from other rebel groups that have been identified in Eastern Congo all these years. AFDL, RDC-GOMA, CNDP and M23 have been for example movements whose core was led by Rwandan Tutsis with objectives of taking power in Kinshasa. At the opposite of these other groups, as far as the journey of struggle of the Hutu rebel group is concerned, its members have always sought first and foremost the protection of civilians that the Rwandan Patriotic Front had not reached and massacred. Their second objective has been to return to Rwanda in dignity. Gaining political power in somebody else country have never been their intention.

The highlighted Tutsi-led rebels were at different levels backed up by Rwanda and Uganda plus a conglomerate of multinationals interested in Congolese mineral resources. FDLR on the contrary consists of Hutu refugees who survived a number of “genocides” and other crimes against humanity perpetrated by the mentioned countries and other rebel groups in their way to Congolese riches. It is worth mentioning that from time to time FDLR has been associated with Congolese forces (FARDC) when DRC was fighting to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity, particularly when former Congolese president Laurent-Desire Kabila was at war with Museveni and Kagame in 1998.

Bosco Mutarambirwa, a Rwandan human rights activist based in New York, gives his view on the hypocrisy and double standards of the international community about the FDLR situation, referring to suggestions made by Simone Schlindweinand Jason Stearns, german and american journalists respectively, on what should be done.

“In her latest analysis of FDLR situation, Simone Schlindwein seems to agree with Jason Stearns that the majority of FDLR are not “known” war criminals. It appears that ongoing psychological warfare is directed toward specific FDLR elements such as Byiringiro and the likes who have been designated by the “international community” as war criminals among FDLR forces. They want these individuals to give in, therefore paving the way for inter-Rwanda negotiations.

But why bother cleaning up FDLR of war criminals if you can’t clean RDF/RPF of criminals? Why not just go straight ahead to political negotiations? Priorities are terribly misplaced here and hypocrisy is palpable everywhere. According to Jason, 80-90% of FDLR senior commanders are NOT known criminals. And on RDF/RPF side, about 100% top commanders are well known war criminals! This double standard has got to stop.”

As in 1998, the FDLR case might be a cause of confrontation between countries supportive of the integrity and sovereignty of DRC – the SADC bloc including Tanzania and South Africa, and those interested in the slicing/balkanization of the country – mainly Rwanda and Uganda with their US and UK, Canada and Israel allies. Time has shown now and again that there were those who thrive in strategically managed chaos and constant instability. Almost more than 8 million of innocent lives have perished in such processes.

Whatever the direction current tractations about FDLR might take, what is certain is that for the Rwandan president and his regime, maintaining a permanent state of war has been a strong political strategy to render secondary every other national and critical issues – oppression of populations, imprisonment, injustice, dispossession of property, misery in rural areas, lack of democracy, corruption at the highest level of the administration, significant unemployment of the youth, and discrimination against hutus in the education system.

In 2010 I wrote that if rebel groups such as FDLR did not exist, leaders like Paul Kagame would certainly create them in reality or fictively, because it is only through such tools and the accompanying propaganda, that their political legitimacy finds its justification. Without them they would be politically finished. In other words, to finish him and the like, – Joseph Kabila and Joweri Museveni too benefit politically from such contexts -, don’t give them war or chaos they are always seeking.

“They [Museveni and Kagame] need them [rebel groups] to justify their clinging onto power. This serves their purpose in staying in charge and at the same time serving their masters, at the expense of their citizens undoubtedly.”

In the particular case of Paul Kagame, facts that were revealed through BBC Rwanda Untold Story demonstrate another trait of character of the Rwandan president, which is cunning and manipulative with high standards, and where his crimes are politically twisted to empower him and his inner circle in holding onto the entire wealth of the country and sustaining their authority over all its institutions.

Ambrose Nzeyimana

Ambrose Nzeyimana

Political Analyst/ Activist
Organising for Africa, Coordinator
The Rising Continent, Blog editor

London, UK
Email: [email protected]