UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
DRC-RWANDA: Interview with FDLR leader, Ignace Murwanashyaka
KINSHASA, 5 Apr 2005 (IRIN) - On Thursday 31 March, the Hutu-dominated rebel movement, the Forces démocratique pour la libération du Rwanda (FDLR), announced that it was abandoning its war against the Rwandan government. The FDLR has been based in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). FDLR official Ignace Murwanashyaka made the announcement after several days of closed meetings with the DRC government in Rome, Italy. Rwanda's government has accused the FDLR of being responsible for the 1994 genocide, and has called for its leaders to be brought to justice. Murwanashyaka spoke to IRIN by telephone from Berlin, Germany, on Monday. Below are excerpts from that interview:
QUESTION: The FDLR called on Thursday for an end to the armed struggle, and said its combatants should be repatriated to Rwanda so that they could participate in the political process. Is this still your position?
ANSWER: Indeed - we made an offer of peace to the Rwandan government and we have presented a timetable for the process. However, today we are saddened by Kigali's reaction, which continues its campaign of defaming us.
Everyone heard the responses of Murigande, [Rwanda's foreign minister whose first name is Charles] and it was not what we expected.
Q: Do you stand by your decision to return to Rwanda? If so, will you agree to stand trial for genocide as the Rwandan government demands?
A: We accept to collaborate with the [UN] international tribunal [for Rwanda] if we are asked to. That does not mean that we committed genocide, or that we accept everything that is said about us.
We condemn the genocide and all those who perpetrated it, and if one among us is accused, they should be brought to justice.
Q: Are you saying that the FDLR was not part of the 1994 Rwandan genocide?
A: The FDLR is a very new movement, which appeared six years after the genocide. If one of us is responsible for this crime - you have certainly heard the allegations - but no one can say that the entire organisation committed genocide. Nobody can say that the FDLR is a genocide movement. We are separate from the Interahamwe [mainly Hutu militias] and the ex-FAR [troops of the former Rwandan army, Forces armées Rwandaises].
Moreover, just because someone is accused [of genocide] it does not mean they are condemned. Among the ranks of those who committed genocide, the whole movement constituted tens of thousands of our countrymen, even people who were very young at the time of the genocide were Interahamwe and ex-FAR - which is pure injustice and, therefore, unacceptable.
Q: With the latest response from Kigali, do you think that your initiative has a chance of succeeding?
A: We have begun a process that will continue. I do not think anyone can stop it even though Kigali continues its diabolical politicking.
Q: Following your Thursday announcement, the UN Mission in DRC, MONUC, said it had designated six transit sites in the provinces of North and South Kivu to receive your combatants for repatriation. When will this process begin?
A: We cannot say that we are ready. In Rome, we laid out a timetable that we submitted to MONUC and the DRC government. We know that the government in Kigali also received it. However, today we are not ready to be insulted by anyone. We are engaged in a process. We await the reaction of Kigali. I do not think Murigande's response will be the last from Kigali.
Q: You speak of a peace process but even at this moment your combatants are said to be attacking the army in DRC in North and South Kivu - in Walungu - and civilians are being raped, robbed and killed. What is your response to this?
A: Who makes these accusations? They are people who have an interest in defaming us. The people with whom we have made an offer of peace too, are insulting us.
I myself just came from the DRC. I can assure you that wherever you find the FDLR, there is a large population of Congolese. Could that be possible if the FDLR killed them, raped them and robbed them? I have spent nights in villages where local people live in peace with the FLDR.
Q: Are you saying that people are confused between the FDLR and the Interahamwe and ex-FAR? How can they differentiate between these groups and where are they?
A: MONUC, the Congolese government and everyone else knows that Kigali has sent and created many groups in South and North Kivu. It is restated in the reports of MONUC and in the UN Security Council panel. The Rasta group, for example, who created that?
We - we are the FDLR. But there are groups, which rob and rape, that have nothing to do with us, but which want to be identified with us.
Q: Can you tell us a date when the FDLR will repatriate?
A: We can only implement the indicative timetable. Its execution depends on Kigali. However, let me say that 15 days after our announcement a follow-up committee is expected to be set up. In the meantime, the consultations should take place to see who would be in the commission and to define its role and mission.
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