Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Are we really serious about getting rid of the FDLR?

There are some pretty simple steps we could do to get rid of the FDLR that do not involve the massive displacement of 900,000+ people.

Let's talk about the FDLR Diaspora. Several prominent members of the FDLR, including its President Ignace Murwanashyaka, Vice-President Straton Musoni (both residing in Germany) and Executive Secretary Callixte Mbarushimana (residing in France). In addition, the FDLR's website ( has been bouncing around from France to the UK and now the US as it comes under media scrutiny. The same goes for RUD-URUNANA, an FDLR splinter group that also may have been guilty of rampant abuses in the Lubero territory of North Kivu this year. Its president and executive secretary live in Massachusetts and New Jersey and their website ( is hosted in Canada.

So are these countries trying to prosecute these officials for leading an organization that is responsible for crimes against humanity, murder, rape and pillage? Sort of. First, all three guys mentioned above have been placed on the UN sanctions list by the Security Council, so Germany and France are supposed to freeze their assets and ban them from traveling. The German government has more or less done this for Murwanashyaka and Musoni through the Central Bank there (neither of them had much money), although it is possible that they are holding money are running businesses under other names; I am not sure what France has done to implement the sanctions against Mbarushimana. The ICTR has dropped the case against him, but there's a case being brought against him in French courts for involvement in the genocide.

That's small potatoes, however. Why don't they just arrest them? Shut down the websites? The short answer is that the states have to abide by domestic due process Apparently there are few laws in these countries that make leadership in a foreign rebel group, even if that group is incredibly abusive, illegal. In Germany, the authorities tried to prosecute Murwanashyaka for war crimes in 2006 but had to abandon the case for lack of evidence (!!!). They are now trying to nail him for belonging to a terrorist organization (paragraph 129 of the Federal Criminal Code). They've had some problems, because all of their evidence of FDLR abuses comes from MONUC, which has refused to release the conditions of confidentiality they had placed on that information.

But is that really all that can be done? I think we are not being as innovative as we might be. Let me suggest some other paths:

  • The German prosecutors should develop their own case and evidence. It would be relatively easy to gather abundant evidence of FDLR abuses in a trip to the eastern Congo. Why wait on MONUC, which has taken over a year to get back to the Germans?
  • The Congolese should issue an arrest warrant for Murwanashyaka & Co. After all, it's their population that is suffering. That could encourage the Germans and French to take their allegations seriously and provide added momentum.
  • Bring charges against the RUD leaders in the US (Felicien Kanyamibwa and Jean-Marie Vianney Higiro) under the Alien Torts Claims Act. I have seen good evidence that both (in particular the former) are in touch with RUD units in the field regularly. We now just need to beef up our evidence that RUD troops are guilty of torture or abuse in the field.
At the same time, we should remember the limitations of this approach. Neither the FDLR or RUD get most of their financing from abroad - they tax the population, mines and trade in the areas they control. The FDLR's political leadership was formed in 2001 to proved political cover and legitimacy to an already exisiting armed force in the field. Getting rid of them would be a significant symbolic victory and would send a message to the troops in the field - but it wouldn't spell the death knell for the FDLR by any measure.

We should place more emphasis on the FDLR "Diaspora" closer to their bases of operation. I have been especially shocked that FDLR liaison officers could be found in Bukavu, Goma, Kinshasa and Lubumbashi during most of the Kimia II operations. General Mudacumura (the FDLR overall commander) has a sister, Eugenie, in Lubumbashi with whom I have talked over the phone. An FDLR financial officer, Gerard Rucyira, has also been based out of Lubumbashi. Colonel Mugaragu (the Chief of Staff of the FDLR) has four children in school at the University of Lubumbashi. Many of them are protected by local Congolese officials, with whom they have business contacts.

There are also regional links: Allgedly, the FDLR have close historic ties to some members of the Tanzanian security services, and there are FDLR operatives active in recruitment and financing in Burundi.

The new UN Group of Experts report, due in several weeks' time, will shed some much needed light on these networks. For an excellent review of the FDLR Diaspora, see Rakiya Omaar's recent report: "The end in sight?"


Aroni said...

Dear Mr. Jason Stearns,

I have always admired your objective and independent work on the DRC, both at ICG and as UN Expert. However, your current comments regarding RUD leaders lack objectivity and fairness.
First, let me thank you for publicly stating in the interview you gave to PRI/NPR on January 23, 2009 that Western countries intelligence services confirmed to you that RUD-Urunana and RPR leaders do not engage in activities contrary to laws and regulations in the countries of their residence and do not conduct financial transactions aimed at financing rebellions in the DRC. The reasons these leaders do not engage in such activities are simple:
RUD-Urunana and RPR are primarily political organizations. Our political platform is articulated around promoting peaceful solutions, dialogue, and the respect of dignity and basic human rights;
The political leaders do not get involved in military affairs;
3) RUD-Urunana and RPR have been engaged in a peace process with the DRC government, in which they committed to a peaceful disarmament and repatriation or resettlement of Rwandan refugees. Financial transactions for a potential rearmament would be contrary to the spirit of the process and the vision shared by the two organizations;
4) AN-Imboneza and RPR-Inkeragutabara do not conduct offensive military operations. Their primary role is to protect refugees.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC), the coalition between RUD-Urunana and RPR, has multiplied and will continue to undertake initiatives in the search of peaceful and durable solutions to the problem of Rwandan refugees in the DRC.
We always expressed our readiness to meet anyone interested in the peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa. Many actors, including ambassadors of Western Countries, the MONUC, the DRC Government and several NGOs have heeded our calls and met RUD-Urunana and RPR political and military leaders, either formally or informally.

SInce January 2008, in Kinsasa, the NDC and the DRC government voluntarily engaged in a peace process to disarm the troops, for voluntary repatriation or resettlement in the DRC or third countries. The process continued in Pisa and Rome in May 2008 with the facilitation of San’Egidio Community. In Kisangani on May 26, 2008 the International Community witnessed our publication of the Roadmap. On July 31, 2008 we led the disarmament and regroupment of combatants and their dependents in Kasiki, in front of the international Community. Hence, are we surprised that you may insinuate that RUD-Urunana leaders have hindered the disarmament and repatriation or resettlement of combatants and their dependent.

As you may recall, in the night of February 10, 2008, the disarmed combatants along with their defenseless dependents, including women, children, and the elderly were attacked by the coalition of Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) and the FARDC. Mr. Lambert Menge Omalanda, DRC Communications Minister and Government Spokesperson, stated in the Congolese media that the attack was organized in Kinshasa and the Kivu by "extremists" and "troublemakers bent into disrupting the pacification of the East." The attack happened after several major advances in the Kisangani peace process. On 27 January 2009, in Rome, with the firm support of San’Egidio Community, Eglise du Christ au Congo (ECC) and SIT-Norway, the NDC had just signed an agreement with the Government of the DRC. The Agreement provided for the creation of a peace zone in and around Kasiki. To date, we do not know the whereabouts of most of the survivors of the Kasiki pogrom.

Finally, I would like to categorically emphasize the following: RUD-Urunana is an independent political organization. Thus, RUD-Urunana is not a faction of the FDLR, has never been associated with the FDLR, and has its own vision and political platform.

Since you live in the area I would like to meet with you over a cup of coffee to address questions you may have.

Best Regards,

Felicien Kanyamibwa, PhD
SG, URunana and President, NDC.
New York, November 12, 2009

keith harmon snow said...

And, so, Mr. Sterns, what is your position on [1] arresting Kagame and [2] who is responsible for genocide in Rwanda?

Unknown said...

Hey Jason

Thanks for the leaked out and interesting report....That report jason was actually a thrown out report because of the way this person Mathani had obtained information illegally and than self fabricated it to make some form of cartel type story. I wonder whether he is being paid to create a story line movie or just so frustrated in being in Africa for a while that he has had to make up something to justify the huge expense of the UN and the manner in which the big companies are trying to take a footing in Congo for it is the richest mineral reserve known to man,

So its obvious that Mathani is a self styled mercenary and lost his civil being and being a rebel in the UN! Not really the way the UN wants to operate!!

He has been buying gold himself and has also been involved with his mates taking local village girls and prostitutes from the local village and spending lots of UN money in pubs and bars in Africa. Wonder whether he wants that leaked out and He forgot to mention that one in his self styled report!

He does look a bit mad of course rather like a jackle and hyde. How do i Know? Well I am a qualified Doctor!

Why spoil the name of the UN and its good and for what is stands for? There is no way that Mathani would be engaged at the top or promoted for his report or publishing material which is not actually acceptable by UN standards!

What has the UN achieved in 10 years on the ground in Congo other than this Mathani report which seems to be victimising select gold dealers in Uganda of all places!

What on earth does that have to do with how the rebels obtain arms in Congo, From what i understand in Uganda there are 200 dealers , why has he named two dealers ?

Also there is also a report from other independent journalists that state that only a fraction of that money in gold can end up with the FDLR in Congo.

Why has Mathani taking such a liking for gold in Uganda and the people he named?? Dont tell me he wants to take over there buisnesses?

So if you want to do proper journalism it is important that correct information is given and should be backed up with proper evidence not fabricated stuff.

So anyway Jason, mates aside with Mathani,,,,,,how about wanting to know the truth and reporting on the truth?

I will report later please let me know on the blog if you would like my email.

All the best to the truth!


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