Kigali raises the red flag over FDLR, Congolese army ties

Saturday July 20 2013

By GAAKI KIGAMBO Special Correspondent

Although Rwanda has succeeded in whittling down the numerical and military strength of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the group has maintained a coherent political and military structure, which still poses a physical and ideological threat to Rwanda and the region.

Military attachés from 27 African countries accredited to the African Union was told last week in Kigali that the group’s top command still espouse a hate ideology that accounts for the 1994 genocide that claimed up to a million Rwandan lives.

Kigali holds the FDLR, a product of soldiers from former president Juvénal Habyarimana’s regime and the Interahamwe militia, responsible for the 100-day catastrophe.

Genocide ideology

President Paul Kagame’s administration considers FDLR genocide ideology a threat in so far as they continue to spread it among Rwandans and other Kinyarwanda speaking people in the region and beyond.

Already, there is a $5million bounty for the group’s overall commander Lt Gen Slyvestre Mudacumura alias Mupenzi. Its president, Ignace Murwanashyaka, faces charges in Germany for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The FDLR has leveraged its cohesive structures in renewed collaboration with the Congolese army (FARDC), according to the UN experts.

According to the June 20, 2013 report by the UN Group of Experts on the DR Congo, the FARDC enhanced alliances with FDLR following the declining security situation in eastern DRC that culminated into the fall of Goma in November last year.

“Four former FDLR soldiers from Tongo and Bambo confirmed to the experts that FARDC soldiers had transferred ammunition to FDLR, with the instruction that it had to be used against M23.

In January this years, two FDLR former soldiers witnessed separately meetings between FARDC and FDLR in the Tongo area, during which they exchanged operational information,” the report states

“One of the soldiers told the group that he saw FARDC transfer ammunition to FDLR during one of these meetings, while the second saw an FARDC officer give boxes of submachine gun ammunition to the rebels.”

“Between January and April 2013, a former FDLR soldier witnessed four distinct ammunition transfers by the FARDC based at Bambo to FDLR, while in February, another former FDLR soldier saw FARDC hand over ammunition to the FDLR, also at Bambo,” it adds.

The numbers of FDLR repatriations have also dipped, according to Rwanda’s security assessments.

For instance, 516 combatants were repatriated between May and November last year against 198 between December 2012 and June 2013.
Kigali attributes this decrease to increased support from FARDC, which has significantly boosted FDLR’s morale.

Expert fear that the FDLR appears to be undergoing preparations as the main fighting force when offensive against M23 eventually commence with the express objective of dismantling the supposed external support that sustains the rebels.

Dangerous terrain

“The FDLR know the terrain better. They have been there for a long time. Troop contributing countries don’t really want their soldiers dead in the Congo jungles. Do they?” A senior security official told The EastAfrican.

The attachés heard that FDLR has renewed training of 14 Congolese militia groups in North and South Kivu Provinces.

The intention is to enhance cross border infiltrations and raids into Rwanda; to disrupt tourism, the country’s economic backbone; and to carry out acts of terror aimed at portraying Rwanda as insecure thus diminishing its credibility.

“The training of these militia groups is likely to escalate conflict hence undermining efforts aimed at stabilising the region,” a top Rwandan security chief told the attachés.