A report by the UN Group of Expert on DR Congo was on Friday last week leaked to Reuters News Agency. The focus of much of the news reporting has however been on M23 rebels. More than 70% of the report also covers M23. But what did the report publish about Rwandan FDLR rebels? RNA is providing the unedited part of the report about FDLR. Read below:
The FDLR continued to weaken during the first half of 2013. FDLR currently has approximately 1,500 soldiers, the majority of whom deployed in North Kivu and the remainder in South Kivu. The decrease in the strength of FDLR is mostly due to a high surrender rate. During 2012, MONUSCO DDRRR repatriated 1,441 foreign FDLR combatants, and demobilized 398 FDLR Congolese combatants. However, the rate of FDLR surrenders has declined since the beginning of 2013. As of 14 June 2013, only 309 FDLR combatants have surrendered to DDRRR.
During 2012, Raia Mutomboki attacks against the FDLR forced the latter to redeploy towards the east of North Kivu, and towards the south of South Kivu. As a result, there is a gap of 400 kilometers between the northern and southern FDLR sectors, and hardly any movement of troops between the two sectors. As a consequence of the Raia Mutomboki threat, Maj. Gen. Sylvestre Mudacumura, FDLR’s military commander, shifted his headquarters northward to the Ngango area, in Walikale, North Kivu.
The FDLR suffers from internal divisions and a weak hierarchy that lacks the capability to command and control the organization’s entire operations. The movement’s leadership is divided between hardliners such as Mudacumura who want to continue the armed struggle, and moderates belonging to younger generations, who favor demobilization and reintegration. The FDLR command has been further weakened by the arrest in Tanzania in early 2013 of FDLR deputy commander and sanctioned individual General Stanislas Nzeyimana, aka Izabayo Bigaruka, who had travelled on a clandestine mission and in violation of the travel ban. FDLR officers and intelligence sources from the region confirmed Nzeyimana’s arrest and told the Group that Rwandan officials are currently detaining Bigaruka. However, in a letter to the Group, the Government of Rwanda denied having arrested or detained Bigaruka.
The Group has not found any evidence that FDLR receives significant financial or other support from abroad. The Group has investigated a diaspora network led by Bernard Twayiramungu, Felicien Barabwiriza, and Jean Bosco Uwihanganye, who have been residing in Germany. In December 2012, German authorities arrested these individuals and charged them on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist organization. The Group continues to investigate FDLR support networks that may be maintained in Europe.
FDLR attacks in Rwanda
Since M23 took control of the area along the border with Rwanda in Rutshuru territory, FDLR concentrated its troops adjacent to M23-controlled areas and carried out three attacks on Rwandan soil in late 2012 and mid-2013. FDLR officers told the Group that the objective of these attacks was to show the FDLR was not a dying force.
The Group based its estimates on MONUSCO DDRRR figures, as well as on interviews with current and former FDLR soldiers. However, in a communication to the Group, the Rwandan Government estimated the current FDLR strength to be 5000 troops.
On 27 November 2012, taking advantage of M23’s movement toward Goma, which left its western flank exposed, about 160 FDLR soldiers crossed into Rwandan territory through Gasizi. According to FDLR officers, a Commando de recherche et d’action en profondeur (CRAP) unit operating from Nyamulagira had crossed into Rwanda ahead of the attack. The FDLR targeted RDF positions at Kabuhanga and Muti, in Rubavu district. On 2 December, about 80 FDLR soldiers infiltrated into Rwanda near Mount Visoke and attacked the RDF position nearby Kinigi, killing one park ranger.
FDLR spokesperson La Forge Fils Bayeze publicly claimed FDLR responsibility for these attacks. FDLR cadres and surrendered soldiers reported that FDLR North Kivu Sector deputy commander Col. Stanislas Gakwerere, alias Stany, coordinated these incursions, acting under Sector commander Col. Pacifique Ntavunguka, alias Omega, and ultimately on the orders of Mudacumura.
Rwandan officials told the Group that the RDF killed 30 FDLR soldiers and captured one FDLR soldier during the November and December attacks. RDF officers recovered weapons used by the FDLR during their incursion, as well as telephones, sim cards, identity cards, and FDLR documents (see annex 54). RDF officers also discovered a hand-drawn map of the DRC-Rwanda border area, and a list of radio signs in the belongings of the dead FDLR soldiers.
According to FDLR and M23 commanders, on 24 May 2013, when most of M23’s troops were engaged in a failed offensive near Goma, FDLR infiltrated again into Rwanda through Gasizi to launch another attack.
FDLR – FARDC cooperation
Faced with the rapidly evolving M23 rebellion in 2012, the FARDC first abided by a tacit non-aggression agreement with the FDLR. However, the declining security situation in eastern DRC, culminating with the fall of Goma on 20 November 2013, enhanced the collaboration between some FARDC units and the FDLR in areas of close proximity with M23-controlled territory. The Group has documented local-level collaboration between the FARDC and the FDLR, and continues to investigate the extent to which the FARDC hierarchy may be involved in such collaboration. The Group sent a letter on 12 June 2013 to
the Government of DRC asking for clarification about this support and is awaiting a reply.
The Group interviewed 10 FARDC soldiers in Tongo, in North Kivu, who reported that FARDC and FDLR regularly meet and exchange operational information. These same sources stated that FARDC soldiers supplied ammunition to the FDLR. Col. Faida Fidel Kamulete, the commander of FARDC 2nd battalion of 601st Regiment based at Tongo, denied such collaboration, but declared to the Group that FARDC and FDLR do not fight each other. FDLR officers and an FDLR collaborator told the Group that “Col.” Jean-Baptiste Gakwerere aka Esdras Kaleb, who commands the FDLR deployed in Tongo is in charge of the
coordination between FDLR and FARDC officers in the area.
Four former FDLR soldiers from Tongo and Bambo confirmed to the Group that FARDC soldiers had transferred ammunition to FDLR, with the instruction that it had to be used against M23. In January 2013, two FDLR former soldiers witnessed separately meetings between FARDC and FDLR in the Tongo area, at which they exchanged operational information. One of the soldiers told the Group that he saw FARDC transfer ammunition to FDLR during one of these meetings, while the second saw an FARDC officer give boxes of submachine gun ammunition to the rebels. Between January and April 2013, a former FDLR soldier witnessed four distinct ammunition transfers by the FARDC based at Bambo to the
FDLR, while in February, another former FDLR soldier saw FARDC hand over ammunition to the FDLR, also at Bambo.
An FARDC officer and local leaders from Muja, 10 kilometers north west of Goma, also reported to the Group a pattern of collaboration between the FARDC and the FDLR. The FARDC has established positions at Muja and Rusayo to defend Goma against the M23. According to FDLR commanders, the FDLR North Kivu Sector CRAP unit under “Maj.” Alexis, usually based at the Nyamulagira volcano in the Virunga National Park, carries out regular operations in that area. The Group interviewed two former FDLR soldiers who surrendered from Muja, and both were aware of ammunition transfers from FARDC commanders. One of the former soldiers claimed to have witnessed the supply of boxes of submachine gun ammunition from FARDC soldiers to the FDLR.
Child soldiers in FDLR
According to 23 ex-FDLR combatants interviewed by the Group, FDLR has been attempting to recruit children among the Rwandan refugee population in DRC, and among Congolese Hutu populations, but with limited success. The Group interviewed 15 children who escaped from the FDLR and who had all been forcibly recruited. One 16-year-old boy, born to FDLR parents told the Group he had automatically become a FDLR soldier when he was thirteen.