Beyond the Myth Ex-FAR/Interahamwe and the Congolese Tragedy

eyond Ethnic Politics and Fear: Hutu, Tutsi, and Ethnicity in Rwanda

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Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) vs. Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR): The Untold Story of the Congolese Tragedy - Beyond the Myth Ex-FAR/Interahamwe and the Congolese Tragedy.
by Felicien Kanyamibwa, PhD., MqBA.

New Jersey, USA, January 15, 2009.


On December 5, 2008, the Rwandan and the DRC Governments signed in Kigali yet another agreement for the military disarmament of the armed groups roaming the Great Lakes Region of AFrica, including ex-FAR/Interahamwe and the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) of the renegade General Laurent NKunda. The act followed, rather claimed to be a continuation of, a similar agreement signed in Nairobi, Kenya, on November 9, 2007, for the disarmament of the so-called negative forces.

The DRC government committed itself to repatriating the ex-FAR/Interahamwe, by force if necessary, and to reintegrating the CNDP forces. Ironically, the DRC government signed the new agreement after its beleaguered Congolese army, FARDC, suffered humiliating defeats by well armed, better military trained, and strenuously determined CNDP forces. According to the UN Expert Report S/2008/773 of December 12, 2008 (Final report of the Group of Experts on the DRC submitted in accordance with paragraph 18(d) of Security Council resolution 1807 (2008)), CNDP was created and is sponsored, armed, funded, and reinforced by the Rwandan army, Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF), formerly known as the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA). The disarming forces were disarmed, hence the sprinkler was sprinkled by the overwhelming power of the Rwandan canons and gunfire.

The Rwandan RPF regime has always presented the ex-FAR interahamwe as the main threat to peace and security in the region. The Rwandan Tutsi regime argues that the Laurent Nkunda phenomenon was born out of the Hutu ex-FAR Interahamwe threat. Some western governments agree with the Rwandan position as evidenced by the signatures apposed on the "Joint Communiqué" of Nairobi by the representatives of the UN, USA, and European Union (EU). The persisting myth of ex-FAR/Interahamwe has remained and was used to justify tragedies that unfolded in the region.


Despite the overwhelming support that the Government of the DRC had received from the international media, the NGO, and other independent organizations that pointed to the undisputed motives of the Rwandan proxy militia of the CNDP of looting Congolese natural resources and massacring Hutu population, signed humiliating agreements with an enemy on  November 9, 2007 and December 5, 2008. In both agreements, the DRC government promised to do everything, even what they could not do to avoid defeat. The Rwandan government committed to…well, almost “nothing!”
After the November 9, 2007 agreement, Kinshasa media close to Kabila’s regime exhibited bravado, whereas the common people expressed their disappointment and feelings of betrayal.
This time around, the mood in Kinshasa appears subdued. In fact, there is no doubt the RPF has gained on all fronts, all time. The new agreement even invalidates the single most credible support for the Congolese legitimate claim: The December 2008 UN Expert report. The agreements also fly in the face of the credibility of the USA. In fact on November 30, 2007, Assistant Secretary of State, Jendayi Frazer said in a press briefing: “And I think the best way is Nkunda to go into exile. Actually, he hasn't been willing to do that up to this point, but so it may be necessary for President Kabila to bring greater pressure on him, including military pressure.


The December 5, 2009 agreement gives the regime in Kigali dominated by a small clique of Tutsis raised in Uganda a bragging right to present the ex-FAR Interahamwe as the sole most important threat in the region. The argument that Laurent Nkunda is a consequence of that threat, hence has a legitimate cause, has taken hold. After the signature of the Nairobi Communique of November 9, 2007, Rwandans were so confident of their victory that they raised their stakes even higher. Not only did they want the ex-FAR/Interahamwe, but also all the armed opposition groups including the FDLR, RUD-Urunana and the Tutsi dominated RPR-Inkeragutabara hunted down.
The list transmitted by the Rwandan government to the DRC government was split into two parts:


  1. Ex-FAR/Interahamwe-FDLR, with names such as Ignace Murwanashyaka, Mr. Musoni, Callixte Mbarushimana etc. All those are FDLR members, but to qualify them ex-FAR or Interahamwe was a stretch.
  2.  Ex-FAR/Interahamwe-RUD/RPR, with names such as Jean Marie Vianney Higiro, Felicien Kanyamibwa, Gerard Ntashamaje, Rukeba, etc. Again, these are names of people hardly associated with ex-FAR or Interahamwe. Some such as Major Gerard Ntashamaje and Rukeba are Tutsis themselves and former members of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

Brief, Kigali has won the battle, and wants all: the hands, the arms and perhaps the entire body. The Tutsi clique in power in Rwanda has even claimed the exclusive right to decide on who, among the Hutus, can be repatriated to Rwanda and those who cannot.


On the positive side, Rwandans overall, whether in opposition or not, should be happy with the accomplishment of General Kagame's government regarding his dealing with the Congolese government. If they really are nationalists, they should be proud of their small country humiliating the big and sleeping giant Congo.
In fact, since the invasion of Congo (Zaire) in October 1996, Rwanda always requested Berlin II. In a speech by Kagame's stooge of the moment, the now former President Pasteur Bizimungu, the RPF government asked the international community to "redraw the present border between Rwanda and the Congo [DRC] and extend Rwanda to the eastern territories of the DRC which the Belgian and German colonizers had carved out and given to the Congo." The RPF regime never gave up the idea
By signing the agreements, the DRC government has given the Rwandan government enough ammunition to lay claim on Eastern Congo. The execution roadmap, that provides for Rwandan officers to legally operate on the Congolese soil de facto recognizes the right of Rwandans to occupy Eastern DRC. Rwandans should be very happy and proud of the Tutsi-led government in power in Kigali. They accomplished what their past kings and leaders gave up or failed to achieve.
Rwandans can now access the so coveted minerals, eliminate any Congolese impeding their looting, and  clean areas they could not reach before: all in the name of pursuing the ex-FAR/Interahamwe. Unfortunately, that is where the model fails. Because, despite agreements between the two governments, the Congolese people will never, and should never tolerate the overt dominance of Rwandans.
They have shown their jealous protection of their ancestral lands, even to the price of personal ultimate sacrifice. When it came to rout the RPA who had helped Laurent Kabila to conquer power and get them rid of the dictator Marechal Joseph Desire Mobutu Sese Seko, they did so convincingly, and with unparalleled brutality. Unfortunately in the process innocents Rwandans, Hutu and Tutsis, living in Kinshasa paid with their lives the abuses inflicted by the Rwandan Kadogo and their military leaders to the Congolese people. For the Congolese, and reasonable Rwandans, the motto should be: Partnership, yes. Hegemony, no. After all, Berlin I created so many injustices, Berlin II would only exacerbate them.


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To answer the question requires us to go back to the tumultuous relations between the FDLR and the current government in Kinshasa. Let us start by this fact: by associating the FDLR with ex-FAR/Interahamwe, Kigali has always sought to put the current DRC president Joseph Kabila between the hammer and the hard place. Kagame put the Kabila dynasty in power by supporting the AFDL and Kabila the Father against Mubutu and ex-FAR; what was the FDLR (the original FDLR) maintained Kabila's dynasty by helping Kabila the Father chase Rwandans from Kinshasa and eventually making their lives miserable in the Kivus.


Joseph Kabila, the son of his father Laurent Kabila, owes to both Kagame and the original FDLR. That is where things get complicated and some, if not most, in the International Community fail or do not want to grasp the difficulties facing the Congolese government and the manipulation of Kagame's government. To measure the magnitude of the oblivion in which some of members of the international community have fallen, let us revisit the history of the FDLR.


FDLR was created, first to defend the beleaguered Laurent Kabira's regime, after he decided he had enough with the Rwandan RPA troops who put him in power. Laurent Kabila, having nowhere to turn, readily found auxiliary troops, before convincing Angola, Tchad, Namibia, and Zimbabwe to help. The auxiliary troops included some ex-FAR officers, well trained, hardened, and ready to do anything, especially given the prospects of revenge against their RPA nemesis. The ex-FAR rank and files comprised mostly of young Rwandans refugees recruited from camps across Congo-Brazzaville, Central African Republic, DRC, Zambia, Angola, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda. Most, if not all, of the young Rwandan refugees had witnessed their relatives being hacked to death, massively executed, raped, mutilated, drowned, maimed and savagely killed by Kagame's Rwanda Patriotic Army when the army destroyed camps in Congo, in 1996-1998.


FDLR and Kabila acted as two hands helping each other. Laurent Kabila supported and funded the creation of the FDLR so that they can help maintain him in power. For the Rwandan refugees, though, Kabila was just a sponsor and providential ally, and their goal was: reorganizing and rearming while fighting to maintain Laurent Desire Kabila in power, the self-defense of the Rwandan refugees survivors of their massacres by the Rwandan Army in the DRC since October 1990, and eventually invading Rwanda where they claimed the new RPF regime oppressed and discriminated against the Hutus. Thus, these youths wanted primarily to protect the remnants of the Rwandan refugees and eventually to go back in Rwanda in victors. Some may also have wanted to avenge their relatives, even if they did not mention it. The aim of the FDLR leaders was to use the aid and the training received while serving in Kabila’s army to overthrow the Rwandan RPF regime.
When the Rwandan Patriotic Army invaded the DRC in 1998 to fight Laurent Kabila, the aim was really to reestablish a pro-RPF regime in Kinshasa and hunting down the Hutu refugees remaining in the Eastern DRC. The creation of the FDLR and the support Laurent Kabila obtained from Angola, Nambia, Zimbabwe, and Tchad stopped the Rwandan bloody adventures. The FDLR fought very well. They were the ones who were able to flee Zimbabween troops trapped behind Rwandan positions in Kasai and Katanga. The well trained and armed Zimbabwean and Angolans had failed to accomplish what the FDLR did cleanly. With exploits like that the FDLR became a big player. General Paul Kagame realized the implications.


Hence, the FDLR as one of the military allies of the late President Laurent Desire Kabila had engaged more that 10,000 combatants, divided into two groups. One group was based in Eastern DRC with the primary mission to protect Rwandan refugees in the Eastern DRC (North-Kivu and South-Kivu) and help the local fighters known as Mai-Mai to resist the occupation of the RPF and  its  backed rebellion RCD/Goma. The other FDLR group was deployed on the internal Congolese frontline.
The FDLR were better trained, more disciplined, and more hardened fighters than the Congolese troops. Hence, the Congolese government and Zimbabwean troops relied on them to engage the Rwandan RPA, while the Congolese Forces and the official allied Forces stayed behind as reinforcements or patrolling and protecting liberated territories.
The FDLR were able to contain and push back the advance of the RPF-RCD/Goma and the MLC of Jean Pierre Bemba, on the following axes:
  • Gbadolite-Kotakoli-Kakuma ( Province of Equator- North);
  • Gbadolite-Businga- Karawa-Gemena (Province of Equator-North);
  • Mbandaka- Bokungu-Boende-Ikela (Province of Equator- South );
  • Mbandaka-Basankusu and Basankusu-Befale (Province of Equator- North);
  • Mbujimayi-Kabinda (Province of Oriental Kassai);
  • Manono-Kiambi (Province of Katanga);
  • Kamina-Kabalo-Nyunzu (Province of Katanga);
  • Poweto, Cantonnier-Pepa-Kapona (Province of Katanga).
Under Laurent Kabila, the FDLR were hailed as heroes. Their leaders lived in villas and hotels in Kinshasa and became inherent part of the DRC government military and political advisers. Then two things happened that compounded the misfortunes of the FDLR: the assassination of Laurent Desire Kabila and the internal conflicts within the original FDLR.


With the assassination of Laurent Kabila, the new government led by Joseph Kabila forgot about the role played by and the value of the FDLR, and bargained his staying in power by sacrificing the interests of his allies, including Zimbabwe Angola, and most importantly, the FDLR.
The Angolans and Zimbabwean went home; the FDLR went east, after some of their top officers, engaged in a disarmament process, were brutally assassinated by the Congolese troops in Kamina, and some political leaders shipped by Joseph Kabila's government to Kigali and Arusha. Among the top FDLR officers assassinated by the Congolese was the commander of the FDLR troops in Kamina, Colonel Vincent Ndagijimana alias Ndanda, whereas General Renzaho was captured and transferred to Arusha.


The internal disputes within the FDLR, especially following embezzlement, leaders ineptitude and the lack of common vision regarding how to deal with the RPF eventually led to the exit of the most active members and the emergence of a new polico-military party: the Rally for Unity and Democracy (RUD-Urunana). Almost all of the executive committee and regional and local leaders deserted the original FDLR, along with a sizable number of military leaders and rank-and-file troops.
RUD-Urunana also strived to recruiting and setting up a network in Rwanda and focusing its operations inside Rwanda. However, one of its goals was to protect refugees wherever they may be, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Thus, a sufficient number of troops were given the mission to protect these refugees.
Basically the FDLR was emptied of most of the founders and the original, often more credible leaders. Even what remained of the FDLR disintegrated and leaders created splinters groups. From its original form, the current FDLR has a completely different shape and form. RUD-Urunana adopted also a completely different direction, early on allying itself with mostly Tutsi Rally of the Rwandan People (RPR). Both armed political organizations quickly gained momentum. Almost the entire team of RPR leaders and most of the troops and officers had recently deserted the original RPF and fled the country in face of brutal repression directly towards Tutsi who criticized the RPF regime.


One common characteristic of the Rwandan armed apposition groups, whether based in Congo, including those labeled FDLR, or operating in Rwanda, such as RUD-Urunana, is that the majority of the combatants were minor in 1994. Most of these combatants have been orphaned two, three, four times: The RPF killed their biological parents since the beginning of the war in 1990. They were adopted by other families in the camps for the internally displaced people (IDP) in Rwanda. When the RPF troops destroyed these camps, they also massacred the adoptive parents. Other families took the orphans into exile in the DRC. Even there, the RPF followed them and massacred the adoptive parents in Mugunga, Tingi-Tingi, Mbandaka, Walikare, Shabunda, etc. These are the multiple time orphaned youth, who now the international community, the UN, the USA, the EU, and the Joint Communique are calling ex-FAR and Interahamwe.
Besides the FDLR, there is another interesting character in the Congolese saga: Haile Menkerios, the once UN Envoy who sponsored, supervised, and  signed the Nairobi Joint Communiqué on the behalf of the elusive international community. Haile Menkerios was the representative of the UN Secretary General in charge of the FDLR Affairs. He is the Under Secretary General for the Political Affairs. That is his publicized biography. What is overlooked is that Haile Menkarios is a retired Erythrean Colonel. He was the adviser of General James Kabarebe, Rwandan Chief of Staff, when the latter was the Commander of the Rwandan troops during the war against Mobutu in 1996-1997.
During the war in which Haile Menkarios served as an military advisor, more than 4 millions Congolese and 200,000 Rwandan refugees were systematically massacred by the RPA troops. He obviously knows very well who is responsible for the massacres of the Rwandan refugees in Tingi-Tingi, Kisangani and Mbandaka in 1997. When Laurent Desire Kabila took power, the DRC remained under the Rwandan Army occupation, with James Kabarebe as the Chief of the general Staff of the new Congolese Army and none other than Mr.Haile Menkerios as the military adviser to James Kabarebe and political adviser to Laurent Kabila. This time, he has changed his hat as an international diplomat, but did he change his heart?  This is the man who signed, in the name of the international community, the Joint Communiqué of Nairobi.


The answer is very simple: The DRC government gained nothing. The Congolese people lost everything. The Rwandan refugees remain in limbo. The DRC government may think that by signing anything Rwanda proposes, the Rwandan government will stop supporting the General Laurent Nkunda. General Nkunda has summarized his intentions in an interview aired by BBC-Kinyanrwanda over the Summer 2007 and repeated in several western media, when asked how and why he acquired a broadcast radio: "our aim is not limited to Kivu, or to defending the Tutsis. We have a long plan. Our plan goes away to Kinshasa."
Early october 2008, General Nkunda stated his intention to overthrow the DRC government. He reiterated his claim of bringing “better governance and renegotiation of a $9 billion infrastructure and mining investment deal struck by the DRC government with the Popular Republic of China”. If anything, General Nkunda has been consistent and clear in his intentions: Kinshasa, not Kivu, or death. General Nkunda is the iceberg of the Berlin II case, claimed higher, lauder, and clearer by the current Rwandan government: Rwanda wants its territories back. General Nkunda is a man on a mission and the ex-FAR and interahamwe are his weapons.


The coalition against the Rwandan refugees in the DRC seems to be an international effort. It is curious that the first agreement was signed when the new UN Secretary General just decided to open an inquiry into the massacres committed in the DRC between 1993 and 2003. With the new political dynamics, the Rwandan Patriotic Army is able to stop or, at least manipulate that inquiry and possibly get away with the genocide of 4.5 millions of Congolese and more than 200,000 Rwandan Hutu refugees.
What is more troubling is that events that preceded the December 5, 2008 agreement shed light on several points that undermine the legitimacy of the agreement itself :


 * First, many in the international community had just found out that, despite Kigali's propaganda, the troops of Rwandan rebels are composed of, not only Hutu and Twa, but alsoTutsis, the majority of whom were, until recently, soldiers and officers within the RwandanPatriotic Army (RPA) and/or the current Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF).

As an example, the United Nations Mission, through MONUC leaders,  has been interacting with the National Democratic Congress (NDC), a coalition of the Rally for Unity and Democracy (RUD-Urunana) and the Rally for the Rwandan People (RPR) and other Rwandan politico-military groups involved in the peace process in the Great Lakes Region. The United Nations Mission along with representatives of the International Community, including Ambassadors of some of the Security Council members, and the media who visited the Rwandan rebels troops and dependents in January 2008, May 2008, and July-August 2008 in Mbwavinywa and Kasiki inNorth Kivu are aware of the fact.


 * Second, the RDF-backed CNDP quickly launched a new invasion when the DRC government was working with the NDC to find ways of bringing peace in Eastern DRC. NDC, partnering with the DRC Government and with the help of the Community San’Egidio, the Eglise du Christ au Congo(ECC) and other members of the International Community, voluntarily entered into the Kisangani process and presented to the International Community a roadmap, with the goal of finding ways for the peaceful resolution of the situation of the Rwandan refugees in the DRC.  The execution of the roadmap was well advanced with the disarmament, in the presence of a Rwandan government delegation and the International Community, of a first group of combatants and their regroupment along with their dependents, into the Kasiki camp, on July 31, 2008.


 *Third, in response to this step towards a peaceful resolution of the Rwandan refugees crisis,the Kigali regime took several steps to thwart the process, by engaging in the following actions:
  •  Establishment of a list of 6,997 undesirables, including children born in the congolese jungles, accusing them of genocide, followed by international arrests warrants against people involved in the Kisangani peace process;
  • Forced return to DRC of combatants who were voluntarily repatriated to Rwanda by the MONUC, with the specific mission to massacre Congolese civilians and put the blame on Rwandan politico-military groups;
  • Mental and physical torture and persecution of repatriated combatants;
  •  Attempts to attack the Kasiki regroupment site. The attacks were stopped by the MONUC at 30 km of Kasiki in August 2008 and again in November 2008;
  •  Forcing Rwandans to emigrate to the DRC and occupy land and businesses of the Congolese natives;
  • Creating parallel administrations aimed at uprooting Congolese communities.


During the ceremonies in Kasiki, Rwandan refugees launched a solemn call to General Paul Kagame to open doors and welcome Rwandan refugees. To this resounding call General Kagame and his proxy Nkunda, have opposed a deafening thunder of bombs, the roaring of tanks, and an unprecedented show of force, brutality and bloodshed on the DRC territory. The resumption of conflict in the DRC without heeding the call of the refugees has sent a clear message to these Rwandan Refugees: “the doors to your country remain closed, you have no rights of citizenship, and your life is worthless.


By signing the December agreement, the DRC government gave more ammunitions to the RPF, the Congolese people once again lost, and the Congolese government capitulated. By signing the agreements, the DRC government has betrayed the 4.5 millions Congolese victims of the RPF genocidal rampage, the Congolese integrity, and the Rwandan refugees who helped the Kabila dynasty stay in power when everybody else had abandoned them.


Note: Felicien Kanyamibwa, PhD., MqBA, is a Co-Founder of Organization for Peace, Justice and Development in Rwanda (OPJDR),  a US-based non-profit organization.

©Copyright 2009, Felicien Kanyamibwa.