Introduction to FDLR and CNDP
The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) (the Rwandan rebel group) and the National Council for the Defense of the People (CNDP) (the pro- Rwanda rebel group led by the renegade Congolese general Laurent Nkunda) present two of the main challenges to peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Both groups are reluctant to peacefully lay down their weapons as requested by their respective governments.
CNDP was founded on July 26, 2006 by breaking away from the National Synergy for Peace and Concorde (Synergie Nationale pour la Paix et la Concorde) founded on December 18, 2003 in Bukavu, the North Kivu capital city. CNDP claims to protect the minority Tutsi community against the Hutu FDLR, fighting for their rights in addition to being an anti-government opposition movement. The group is based in the territories of Masisi and Rutshuru in the North-Kivu province. Conversely, the FDLR is a Rwandan Hutu movement composed of former Rwandan soldiers under President Juvenale Habyarimana. They are accused of genocide in Rwanda in 1994. They are based in the North and South Kivu provinces of the Congo and are waiting to go back to Rwanda.
Both groups are responsible for serious crimes against the Congolese people including killing, rape, looting, illegal mining, etc. They all should have surrendered a long time ago, but why haven’t they done so? This question is rarely asked when it comes to CNDP but always asked when it comes to FDLR. As long as the Rwandan connection to these two groups continues to be ignored (as in the case of the Rwanda-CNDP relationship), or mismanaged (as in the case of the Rwanda-FDLR relationship), peace in the Congo will be delayed.
FDLR Should Surrender Now
Recently, two important meetings took place regarding the FDLR. On May 28, 2008, in Kisangani in the DRC, there was a meeting focused on disarming and possibly repatriating the Rwandan Hutu rebel group (FDLR) that operates in eastern DRC. In attendance were representatives of the Rally for Unity and Democracy (RUD), the breakaway FDLR faction. The RUD is open to disarmament and relocation inside the Congo away from the Rwandan border as long as the Congolese government is committed to not repatriating them by force, but accepting those who willingly want to return.
Also, on June 5, 2008, the Joint Monitoring Group (JMG) which was created out of the 2007 Nairobi Accord between Rwanda and Congo met for the fourth time in Gisenyi, Rwanda. The JMG is made of representatives of the Congolese and Rwandan governments, and assisted by representatives of the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), the United States of America, African Union (AU), South Africa, and the Great Lakes International Conference.
The JMG was created on December 16, 2007 to ensure that the decisions of the Nairobi Communiqué are applied by both the Rwandan and the Congolese governments. The Communiqué stipulates that both Rwanda and Congo should work together to disarm the FDLR to achieve peace in Congo, Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region (Wildenberg 2008). As always, the focus of the meeting was the FDLR, the threat it represents, and what the Congolese government has to do for them to return to Rwanda.
So far this year, the United Nations peacekeeping program “Demobilization, Disarmament, Repatriation, Resettlement, and Reintegration” (DDRRR), has repatriated 524 foreign combatants and their families to Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda, according to Radio Okapi’s broadcast on June 5th, 2008. While this is a start, it is still not sufficient. In a recent policy paper, the Enough Project argues that this number would increase if the $600 incentive for those FDLR who willingly return to Rwanda was enhanced (Feely and Thomas-Jensen 2008). According to AFJN analysis, the number would increase even more if this incentive was accompanied by the Rwandan government’s political will to put in place a mechanism for inter-Rwandan dialogue, justice, and reconciliation.
The Congolese government’s agreement to relocate the Rwandan Hutu militants inside Congo without demanding that the Rwandan government provides the necessary political space for the FDLR to return to their own country is adding insult to injury for the Congolese people, particularly those of North and South Kivu who have been enduring the atrocities perpetrated by the FDLR. Additionally, the relocation approach is in many ways a trap created by those who are benefiting from the war and want to keep it going.
The Congolese people have to be aware of the fact that no matter where the FDLR will be relocated on the Congolese territory, they represent a threat to its security and prosperity. In fact, the FDLR’s presence on the Congolese territory was the pretext of the invasion in 1996 by Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. Attached to this pretext was the real reason: to open the door to Congolese resources for their Western allies. For 11 years now, Rwanda, Uganda, the U.S. and European corporations have made money on Congolese wealth, often to the detriment of the people. Many of these nations such as the United States are simultaneously involved in peace negotiations between Congo and Rwanda. Who are they representing at the negotiation table, and whose interests are they defending?
President Paul Kagame and his Western supporters know for sure that current policies toward the FDLR will one day lead to a military attack by the latter to try to take back the power they lost to Kagame in 1994. Such an attack represents an incentive for superpowers interested in Congolese resources to amplify Rwanda-Congo tensions so that they can not only sell weapons, but also keep their current lucrative natural resources market gained through Rwanda. Declining any relocation of the FDLR in the Congo is the only way to politically settle that matter and let the Rwandan government and its allies know that they only have two choices:
a. enhance the DDRRR, accompanied by Hutu inclusion in Rwandan government and inter-Rwandan dialogue, or
b. relocate the FDLR in another country other than the DRC.
Historical Difficulties of Creating Peace in Rwanda
There will never be a durable peace in Rwanda under an exclusive government. Its history is an eloquent testimony to this fact. After migrating and taking roots in the heart of Africa around the 1300s, the Tutsi continuously ruled Rwanda until 1959 when King Kigeri V and tens of thousands of Tutsis were forced into exile in Uganda, Burundi and D.R.Congo. This mass displacement occurred after inter-ethnic violence which brought to power the first Hutu president, Gregoire Kayibanda in 1961. He was overthrown in a military coup by the second Rwandan Hutu president, Juvenal Habyarimana in 1973.
Like their predecessors, both governed Rwanda with a tribal exclusive approach, one of the reasons why Paul Kagame with his Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) waged the war against Habyarimana’s government in 1990, which unfortunately ended in one of the worst mass killings in the 20th century (Vasile 2006/07). Rwanda’s ritual of tribal discrimination in government and civil wars has in many ways been a blessing to Western nations. Such discrimination bolsters weapons sales, political influence, and economic opportunities in Rwanda and its neighboring countries in the Great Lakes Region.
For example, today the United States trains and equips the Rwandan army and does army officer training on a small scale in the Congo with a plan to increase this program. In exchange for providing military aid to Rwanda, Kagame lends troops to the war in Iraq and supports the U.S. position on Israel. While the conflict in Africa’s Great Lakes Region is a benefit to superpowers, it is a curse to the people of these nations. The hundreds of thousands of Rwandans who died in 1994 are, by some accounts and people’s opinion, just numbers used by superpowers to position and advance themselves to better secure their interests instead of preventing further recurrence of armed conflict.
This is why a superpower such as the U.S., an ally of the current Tutsi regime in Rwanda, refuses to ask hard questions and act in the interest of Rwanda and Congo’s present and future generations.
No Lasting Peace without Accountability
The international community’s failure to tackle the Rwanda issue continues to delay the return of the FDLR to their country. In turn, this disrupts peace and recovery from the disastrous wars in the Congo that have claimed about 6 million lives since 1996 and in Rwanda where the 1994 genocide claimed about 800,000 Tutsi lives (without counting the Hutu and Twa who were massacred in retaliation by the RPF). The international community and the Rwandan government have to understand that a genocide-centered politics alone will never help Rwandans embrace the healing and reconciliation needed for a lasting peace. Protecting the Rwandan government from facing its own sins, whether it is tribalism rooted in its government or the killing of Hutu in Rwanda and Congo, prevents the country from moving forward (Human Rights Watch 2008). There will never be lasting peace without justice.
FDLR: The Problem in Brief
It is imperative that the international community combines its current strategy of demobilization and repatriation with a strong focus on a full implementation of a political inclusivity by the Rwanda government whereby members of the Hutu tribe have a say in the government. Unfortunately, President Paul Kagame still opposes opening the political scene to the Hutu he portrays as genocidaires. While some Hutus fit his description, others are discredited through the skillful method of “guilt by association” which in this case consists of associating every Hutu with the crime of genocide. As a result, the return of the FDLR to Rwanda is delayed and Rwanda continues to be a country at risk of war.
Ultimately, there must be an inter-Rwandan dialogue to bring all Rwandans together for reconciliation and justice after the 1990-1994 devastating war. Such a program is an inescapable road to peace and prosperity for all Rwandans and would translate into peace in eastern Congo. While relocating the FDLR inside Congo is detrimental to the Congolese people, foreign nations see it as a means of perpetuating the region’s instability. Rwanda’s Western allies and supporters continue to take advantage of the opportunity to access Congo’s natural resources and Rwanda continues to sell its fear of an FDLR invasion to the international community (Snow and Barouski 2006).
To be continued.
Adapted from "Two Rebel Groups, One Solution to the Crisis in Eastern DR Congo," By Jacques Bahati. Jacques Bahati is an Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN) Policy Analyst; he is a Congolese citizen and an expert on the crisis.