FDLR’s decline and collaboration with FARDC through the eyes of former combatant

On 28 September 2023 at 11:49

For more than two decades, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) has relentlessly pursued its ill-fated mission to overthrow the Rwandan government to regain power.

This terrorist organization, comprised of individuals responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, has long posed a disruptive force in the region. However, today, its influence is dwindling, and its ranks are weakening.

This terrorist group, reinforced by a coalition of fighters with blood on their hands from the atrocities committed during Genocide against the Tutsi, used to receive various forms of support from anti-Kigali factions.

However, this diverse alliance is now in decline. In the past, FDLR maintained a tacit partnership with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC), but this collaboration has become more open, particularly in their engagements with the March 23 Movement (M23), which has been in conflict with Kinshasa, as recently reported by the United Nations (UN).

The testimonies of Staff Sergeant Uwiduhaye Marie Chantal offer valuable insights. She spent 25 years as a member of this terrorist group before her capture in December 2022 by M23 combatants in Rutshuru, North Kivu province. Her testimony sheds light on the FDLR’s decline, as she experienced it firsthand.

Recruited into the FDLR at the tender age of 13, after fleeing her home in Rubavu, Uwiduhaye initially harbored hopes of the resurgence of a genocidal ideology in Rwanda. However, that dream gradually faded over time.

Uwiduhaye, a mother of two children who have never known their homeland, shared her post-captivity experiences at the Mutobo rehabilitation center, situated in the Musanze district. Here, she and other former combatants receive civic training to facilitate their smooth reintegration into the community.

Her revelations, including the alleged support received from the Congolese government, particularly in the illicit charcoal trade in Virunga National Park and the provision of arms and ammunition in exchange for assistance to the FARDC, raise serious concerns.

She also sheds light on the internal discord within the FDLR, which has been exacerbated by ethnic rivalries and conflicting ambitions among various factions represented by figures such as Murwanashyaka Ignace, General Wilson Irategeka, and General Byiringiro Victor, known as Rumuri.

In Uwiduhaye’s perspective, the FDLR’s incapability to seize power in Rwanda is evident, especially since she believes that their alliance project with the FARDC, who are grappling with countering the M23 rebellion, is a descent into an inevitable catastrophe.

The FDLR, which once boasted 7,000 fighters in 2007, has seen its numbers dwindle to a range of 1,000 to 1,500 combatants by 2015. They continue to lose ground on the battlefield and are currently experiencing a significant reduction in their ranks.

This decline of the terrorist group appears to be a one-way journey into the annals of history. However, for Mrs. Marie Chantal Uwiduhaye, it represents hope for a return to lasting peace in the region.

In Uwiduhaye’s perspective, the FDLR’s incapability to seize power in Rwanda is evident.