’We are on our own’ - Makolo explains Rwanda’s efforts to build professional, strong army

By Wycliffe Nyamasege
On 29 May 2024 at 10:26

Government Spokesperson Yolande Makolo says the security and well-being of the Rwandan people remain among the top priorities amidst ongoing conflicts along the country’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Speaking during a recent interview with Al Jazeera Net, Makolo said there are more than 200 illegal militia groups in the country that continue to pose a security threat to Rwanda, especially in the eastern part of DRC.

Makolo explained that the militia includes FDLR group which comprises remnants of the Interehamwe group that fled to Congo after committing the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

She said the group, comprising former military officials in Rwanda, fled to the DRC with army weapons and attempted several times to destabilize the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) administration that overthrew the genocidal regime.

"Let’s go back to 1994. There were militias that committed genocide against the Tutsis here in Rwanda and then fled to the Congo with their weapons, and the French forces allowed them to cross with these weapons... All the weapons they were using here were taken with them, and they were allowed to keep them in refugee camps in the Democratic Republic of the Congo," she said.

Makolo lamented that the militia group had for many years used Rwandan civilians as human shields in refugee camps under the watch of the international community.

"For years after the genocide against the Tutsis, these Rwandan civilians were hostages of the former army and the militias, now known as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda.

"In the late 1990s, these groups resumed their attacks on Rwanda, and there is evidence of France’s involvement in supporting them with weapons. However, the Rwandan army managed to push them back and thwart their attacks," she stated.

According to the official, Rwanda has done everything possible to show the international community that the situation in the eastern DRC was serious, however little has been done to get to the bottom of the problem.

"We started efforts to convince the international community of the need to support Rwanda in repatriating the refugee civilians to their homeland, instead of leaving them trapped as hostages in camps controlled by armed groups. We had to carry out an operation in the late 1990s and succeeded in bringing back more than two million civilians to Rwanda, some of whom are now deputies and ministers," Makolo stated.

"These militias not only pose a significant security threat to us at our borders but also represent an ideological threat advocating the extermination of the Tutsi ethnicity. This ideology is a continuation of the genocide that occurred here in 1994."

She insisted that the international community had not learnt any lessons from the 1994 atrocities committed by the groups in Rwanda and revealed efforts by the government to build a strong professional army to protect its people.

"Unfortunately, they have not learned the lesson. We have come to realize that we are on our own and must do our utmost with the resources we have to ensure the security of our communities and nations.

"For this reason, we have worked to build a professional and strong army. We also cooperate with regional countries. The lesson we learned is that we must do everything we can and not rely on an international community that has not learned the lesson," the spokesperson said.

Makolo emphasized that different methods have been used to solve the problems between Rwanda and DRC, but Congolese leaders lack the political will.

"There have been several attempts to succeed in political paths, including what was called the Luanda Roadmap, or the Luanda Protocol, or the Luanda Process, but they all lacked the political will to implement them from the republic’s side. There was a second path through what is called the Nairobi Process.

"The Nairobi Process involves disarming illegal armed groups in the eastern republic, demobilizing them, or integrating them into the army and society. However, this path has stalled. There are also attempts to support the state in reforming its security sector. All these initiatives are essentially political processes, but the Democratic Republic of the Congo is determined to take a military path, which is impossible."

Government Spokesperson Yolande Makolo says the security and well-being of the Rwandan people remain among the top priorities amidst ongoing conflicts along the country's border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).