Rwanda: Endgame Playing Out

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May 8, 2009: The Rwandan government reported that "returnees" from the Congo (ie, members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo, FDLR, who were responsible for the 1994 genocide) continue to arrive. Between 140 and 150 FDLR members are surrendering each month in the Congo and going through a "voluntary disarmament, demobilization, and repatriation" program run by the UN.  Congo then returns the militia fighters to Rwanda. Around 3,000 dependents (ie, of FDLR fighters) have also returned to Rwanda since Rwanda and Congo conducted a joint offensive against the FDLR in January 2009.

April 30, 2009: Rwanda and Congo continue to argue that their joint offensive against the FDLR was a success, but more and more Congolese civilians complain that the FDLR has returned. FDLR factions are conducting reprisal raids in the Congo. The FDLR militiamen suspect Congolese villagers told the Congolese government and UN peacekeepers their whereabouts and now it is payback time.

April 21, 2009: African Union peacekeepers are helping the Burundian government disarm FNL (Forces for National Liberation)  fighters as part of the new demobilization and reintegration process for former FNL rebels. AU peacekeepers are manning five demobilization points around the country. There are approximately 21,000 former FNL rebels in Burundi. The Burundian Army and various police organizations have agreed to employ 3500 former rebels. Around 12,500 have already returned home. However, the AU estimates that another 5000 must be demobilized. There are still a lot of light weapons in Burundi. The government estimates that from 100,000 to 300,000 illegal arms remain in the country --and a significant number of them are AK-47s. Other African countries have faced this problem as war subsides and a hesitant peace begins. The Congo Republic (Brazzaville) confronted a similar "small arms threat." Many former fighters do go home but there is always the possibility that a few will decide to continue to live as guerrillas, except now they become bandits. They are bandits armed liked guerrilla fighters and bandits with the skills of experienced guerrilla fighters.

April 20, 2009: The Laurent Nkunda's sage continues. A Rwandan court panel rejected an appeal by Nkunda's lawyer that he be freed from custody because his arrest was illegal. Nkunda is under "house arrest" in Rwanda. He was arrested by Rwandan forces when they invaded Congo to attack FDLR sanctuaries in January. The Congolese had warrants for Nkunda but apparently didn't want the political problem of arresting him -- Rwanda could arrest the Tutsi leader and face less political blowback. Congo claims to want to bring him back to Congo for trial. Maybe, maybe not. The Rwandan government has said since the arrest that removing Nkunda was "fundamental" to forwarding peace in eastern Congo.

April 18, 2009: Burundi's Forces for National Liberation (FNL) formally surrendered to the government. A senior FNL commander surrendered at a ceremony in the town of Rubira (near the capital, Bujumbura) and said that the FNL is not going to "resume war." That may or may not prove to be true, but after 13 years of civil war Burundi is exhausted. The FNL will now become a political party.

April 7, 2009: The Rwandan government held ceremonies commemorating the 15th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. Around 800,000 Tutsi people and Hutu moderates were slain by Interahamwe Hutu militias and their tribal allies.

April 6, 2009: A contingent of Rwandan Army forces conducted a raid into the Congo. The operation was described as a "joint operation" with the Congolese Army to disarm FDLR militiamen. Rwanda and Congo have said that they will continue to conduct joint anti-FDLR militia operations.

 

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