- Rwanda Since the 1994 Genocide
Rwanda Since the 1994 Genocide


Response to Lecture: Rwanda, Great Lakes region, and crisis in DRC

By dagan on February 9, 2013

After attending Susan’s talk on Thursday, it was astonishing to hear how “explicit” Rwanda is involved in the violence in eastern DRC. Of particular interest to me was her mention of the FDLR, or Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda. Based on prior research done for a class last year, I wanted to post what I have come to understand about the group:

According to María Paz Ortega Rodríguez (2011), the internal discourse of the FDLR maintains an “extreme and ethnically motivated anti-Tutsi ideology; the real objective appears to be to overthrow the current Government of Rwanda and to establish a majority Hutu government” (177). From another point of view (a Rwandan newspaper), “FDLR overall strategy is to destabilise the region in hopes of provoking another war between Rwanda and the Congo” (New Times: “External influences”, 2012). As this source further comments, this motivation appears to operate under the belief that “by rekindling hostilities between Kigali and Kinshasa, it can regain a sponsor that will enable it to continue its insurgency so that they can advance to Kigali to ‘finish off their work’, which is to complete the genocidal mania they had unleashed in 1994” (ibid.). (open for discussion – how exaggerated do you think this is?)

While the FDLR is cited by the International Crisis Group (2009) to be “the most powerful and harmful political-military rebel organisation in Congo” (1), statistics point to an otherwise incompetent force beset by insufficient manpower. Over the course of the past decade, the FDLR’s size has diminished greatly – from a force of 13,000-20,000 fighters in 2005 (Marc Lacey, NYTimes 2005) to around 6,500-7000 by the end of 2008 (ICG, 1) – a number cut by more than half in just three years time.

However, the FDLR’s diminished fighting force does not explain why Rwanda is still so heavily involved in the DRC. While certainly not the only reason, something that Susan brought up in her lecture was that Rwanda is drawn toward the economic potential found in the Kivu area. It has been made known by various sources that the FDLR has a large stake and a high level of participation “in the smuggling of minerals to neighboring countries” (Rodríguez, 180). A 2007 World Bank-funded study estimated that “the FDLR controls half of the mineral trade in the Kivus outside of the main towns, and oversees the smuggling of gold and diamonds for sale in neighbouring countries such as Uganda and Burundi” (McGreal 2008). I feel this is an important point to highlight, especially when recalling a statistic that Susan mentioned at Monday’s PCON film about how Rwanda has exported no less than $45 million in diamonds (admittedly, I forget the exact timeframe) – yet there are no diamonds to be found within Rwanda itself. This extraction, although part of the larger problem involving the Great Lakes Region, seems to be manipulated by the Rwandan government to see its own interests being played out in the area.

A question to the class: what would happen to Rwanda’s economy diamonds were not exported? Do you see any reason why Rwanda would/should not have a stake in the Kivus? Is there an actual “threat” posed by the FDLR to Rwanda?

(this is already a long post – but if you would like a works cited I would be happy to provide it!)

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