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Rwanda-Fdlr: Will FDLR rebels ever leave Congo and return to Rwanda?

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Will FDLR rebels ever leave Congo and return to Rwanda?



Some FDLR leaders feel their lives would be in danger if they returned to Rwanda

Twenty years after the Rwandan genocide, some of those responsible are still wreaking havoc in neighbouring DemocraticRepublic of Congo, where they are terrorising the local population and profiting from the area’s rich natural resources. The BBC’s Grainne Harrington reports on the UN’s attempts to persuade them to lay down their weapons and return home.


“Vincent Miranzi” is on the legal affairs commission of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) but he won’t tell the BBC his real name.

People who want to leave need to do it secretly, because if they want to surrender, they’ll be betrayed, and they risk being executed”

He arrived in what is now Democratic Republic of Congo after the Rwandan genocide, though he denies taking part in the slaughter of some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus, which has led to two decades of unrest across the region.

The FDLR has been accused of recruiting child soldiers, rape and systematic looting.

“It’s true that not everybody in our ranks is an angel,” he says calmly.

“Some can engage in repressive behaviour. That exists in other countries too, in all societies. But we have ways of dealing with that. Each time a case is identified, then they have to submit to strict regulations.”

Mr Miranzi has come to meet me in the village of Luofu, a small villagenestled in the lush green hills of North Kivu, DR Congo’s eastern province, bordering Rwanda, which has borne the brunt of years of conflict.

Luofu is now just outside FDLR territory, but for most of the past decade, it was dominated by the Rwandan rebels.

They extorted money from locals, pillaged farmers’ harvests and set up road blocks, demanding money or goods from anyone travelling through.

People here accuse the Congolese army of collaborating with them, leaving locals to fend for themselves.

“At one point, they [FDLR] came to burn the villages… more than 200 houses,” says Eric Kambale, a trainee priest at Luofu parish.

“People burned inside, can you imagine? It terrified people. The Congolese army was one kilometre away when that happened.”

He says the people of Luofu lived under the constant threat of war until UN forces regained control in 2010.

The UN mission in DR Congo (Monusco) has said that, after helping defeat the mainly Tutsi M23 rebels last year, the Hutu-led FDLR are next in the sights of its well-equipped special intervention brigade.

In the meantime, it is hoping to persuade the rank and file that their best option is to go back to Rwanda.

Monusco has set up mobile radio stations in remote areas, broadcasting messages of encouragement and success stories from reformed fighters living in Rwanda.

They give out their mobile phone numbers on the radio, and in leaflets airdropped from UN helicopters across rebel territory.

When the rebels call, the demobilisation team has to set up a meeting point and extract them before their commanders discover their plans

BBC

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