UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
DRC-RWANDA: Interview with Anastase Munyandekwe, spokesman for the Hutu-dominated FDLR
BRUSSELS, 13 Sep 2005 (IRIN) - The Great Lakes Region has been engulfed by instability since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and the wars that followed from 1996-1997 and 1998-2003 claimed millions of lives. One of the rebel groups currently operating in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR). Founded in May 2000, the movement is said to be largely composed of former army soldiers and Interahamwe militiamen whose leaders are largely accused of having taken part in the planning and implementation of the genocide. The political wing of the FDLR denies this, as well as the allegations of massacres of civilians. The FDLR currently has until 30 September to lay down arms or be forced to do so. Here are excerpts from an interview on 9 September with Anastase Munyankekwe, the FDLR's spokesman.
QUESTION: The FDLR signed an agreement in Rome, Italy, in March to lay down its weapons voluntarily and unconditionally and return to Rwanda. Why has the movement not honoured its commitment?
ANSWER: The FDLR never signed any agreement. The FDLR issued a declaration in Rome committing itself to voluntarily disarming and returning to Rwanda. But all this was on a number of conditions: We asked that Rwanda open its political space so that we could exercise our political activities once back home. So far nothing has been done in this respect. We also required the establishment of an international follow-up committee, which would have discussed with us the modalities for both our disarmament and return. The committee was never put in place.
Q: Who would have set up the follow-up committee?
A: Before issuing the declaration, we discussed it with the DRC government. Together with the mediator [the San Egidio Foundation], we came to the conclusion about the shape and content of our declaration. The three parties [the DRC government, the FDLR and the San Egidio Foundation] agreed on the creation of the committee. Up to now, nobody seems to be willing to consider our demand. Returning to Rwanda without those two conditions would be jumping into the wolf's mouth.
Q: How do you explain that the former FDLR commander-in-chief, Gen Paul Rwarakabije, returned to Rwanda in November 2004 and is now serving in the regular army?
A: Rwarakabije returned to Rwanda because he is a weak-spirited man. He is someone who never honours his commitments. Yes, he is now serving in the army but what does he do? What are his attributions? He took with him about 100 soldiers [FDLR fighters] after obscure negotiations with Kigali. We know that he was corrupted so that he could weaken the FDLR, but he failed. Where are those who followed him? Most of them are in prison. One colonel even managed to flee to Zambia.
Q: How do you respond to the allegations by the UN Mission in the DRC, or MONUC, and other rights organisations that the FDLR massacred civilians in eastern DRC?
A: We all wonder for whom MONUC works. Even yesterday a MONUC official said [on the BBC] that the FDLR had killed 12 civilians in eastern DRC. That is wrong. In that region, there are many armed groups, including the Rasta group [dissidents from the FDLR], the Jackson group, the Mayi-Mayi and another group led by a dissident DRC army officer known as Colonel 106. We suspect them to be in league with Kigali to tarnish the image of the FDLR. Before making any investigation, MONUC said the FDLR was responsible. Last month, MONUC alleged that the FDLR had killed 13 people in Walungu, South Kivu Province, including the province's deputy governor. We protested, and after investigation MONUC found that no killing had taken place.
Q: It is also said that most of the FDLR fighters were involved in the 1994 genocide. What is your response to that?
A: If there are people among us who were involved in the genocide, they should be brought to justice. But they should not be the ones on the Rwandan government's lists where all opponents are genocide suspects and all collaborators innocent. Rwarakabije himself was on those lists, but he is now innocent because he is cooperating? They talk of Interahamwe. Who is Interahamwe and who is not? They talk of extremist and moderate Hutu but never of extremist and moderate Tutsi, as if the two categories did not exist among the Tutsi community. We have troops, and we asked the UN International Criminal Court for Rwanda to send us lists of its suspects and evidence of their involvement. We are ready to cooperate fully.
Q: What are the relations between the FDLR and MONUC, and the FDLR and the DRC government?
A: MONUC has a clear mission: repatriating us at all costs. As for the DRC government, we met in Rome [March 2005] and it had its part to play - to ensure that an international follow-up committee is set up. We do not understand its current position of forcing us home without any accompanying measures. The best would be to sit down again with the DRC government.
Q: The FDLR has been given until 30 September to disarm or face possible military action. What are your plans between now and the deadline?
A: We cannot go to Rwanda under current circumstances. We do not understand why they have opted for a forcible disarmament. We have never attacked Rwanda or the DRC, nor do we have any intention to do so. ...We want to disarm and return home when the two conditions in the Rome Declaration are met. If the follow-up committee had been created, we would have perhaps disarmed and returned home. The international community does not want to assume its responsibilities. If MONUC attacks our troops, we will consider the action as the killing of the last survivors and witnesses of the 1996-1997 massacre of Hutu refugees by the Rwandan Army. There is no difference between being killed in Rwanda and being killed in the DRC. We prefer to be killed by the international community rather than by our own countrymen.
Q: The FDLR now has two leaderships and two commanders-in-chief. How do you explain these divisions?
A: A certain Christophe Hakizabera wants to become FDLR's chairman despite the regulations governing the movement. In eastern DRC, Major Seraphin Bizimungu, also known as Amani or Mahoro, proclaimed himself the new commander-in-chief of the fighting forces. On 25 June, the FDLR elected Ignace Munyeshyaka as its chairman and Gen. Sylvestre Mudacumura as the commander-in-chief in eastern DRC.
Q: What chance is there of dialogue between the FDLR and the Rwandan government?
A: The international community runs away from its responsibilities. Talks took place everywhere, for instance in DRC and Burundi. When the Rwandan government says 'We do not want dialogue' nobody bothers it.
Q: Does the Burundi case inspire the FDLR?
A: The Burundi case is marvellous. We hope that President Pierre Nkurunziza will be wise enough and know that there is an unsolved problem next door [in Rwanda]. We hope that peaceful elections in the DRC will also take place.
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