Rwanda has been expressing concerns over the FDLR terrorist group formed by individuals responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi that continues to spread genocide ideology and threaten security in the region.
Rwanda maintains that it can’t engage in talks with the terrorist group but established an arrangement for reintegration of its combatants repatriating voluntarily while those who committed crimes are brought before courts.
Since M23 rebel group resumed fighting with Congolese Army (FARDC) towards the end of 2021 over DRC’s failure to implement peace accords signed in 2013, the country formed a coalition with FDLR.
Last year, the coalition of FARDC and FDLR shelled Rwandan territory at different times, destroyed properties and injured people in Musanze District as revenge to Rwanda which is accused of supporting M23.
However, Rwanda has repeatedly denied the allegations and urged DRC to solve internal problems without dragging it into its mess.
Despite the situation, DR Congo continues to sanitize FDLR calling its members ‘ordinary refugees’ that need talks with Rwanda to return home.
During a press conference held on Wednesday 11th January 2023, Congolese Minister of Higher Education, Muhindo Nzangi Butondo said that the country would have no problems, had Rwanda engaged in negotiations with FDLR.
He was alluding to the speech of President Paul Kagame delivered this week at the parliamentary building highlighting that DRC did not show willingness to bring back its citizens who fled to Rwanda more than 20 years ago.
Muhindo said that Rwanda should not talk about Congolese refugees without holding talks with FDLR.
“He has no power to talk about the issue of refugees because he refused to engage in talks with brothers from FDLR who have been in the Democratic Republic of Congo for many years. We would not be having problems in eastern DRC, had he agreed to initiate negotiations with them, ” he said.
DRC has taken a stand to advocate for and sanitize FDLR yet the international community has labeled it as a terrorist group.
The latest report by the United Nations (UN) Expert Group provided evidences of the collaboration between FARDC and FDLR and demanded the country to stop.
The alarm was also raised by other blocs including the European Union to find a way for peace in eastern DRC.
During an interview with France 24 in September 2022, Felix Tshisekedi also said that FDLR that does not pose security threat.
He explained that it is comprised of members ‘with no political ambitions to overthrow Kigali’s leadership. In brief, what Rwanda says is a lie’.
Speaking to BBC recently, the Spokesperson of FDLR, Cure Ngoma refuted Tshisekedi’s utterance that the group is made up of thieves struggling for survival.
“We are existent. Those making the statements have their own reasons. We would not be participating in this conversation if we do not exist. Our soldiers are strong,” he said.
UN experts indicate that FARDC provided weapons to FDLR and allies with it on battlefield, a situation termed as the violation of international laws.
The Heads of State’s summit held in Luanda, Angola in November 2022 resolved that M23 should withdraw from occupied territories within 48 hours and ordered armed groups including FDLR-FOCA, RED Tabara and ADF among others to lay arms down and respect the process to bring them back to countries of origin.
DRC has done nothing to disarm them but continues to work with FDLR and advocate for it.