FDLR's goal is to return to Rwanda and topple President Kagame - Murwanashyaka's Hutu FDLR and Nkunda's Tutsi CNDP will remain enemies forever
From The Daily Telegraph
By David Blair in Goma, 30 November 2008
CONGO: HUTUS AND TUTSIS 'WILL ALWAYS KILL EACH OTHER'
At the root of Congo's turmoil is the presence of the militias who exterminated at least 800,000 people, largely the minority Tutsis, in neighbouring Rwanda 14 years ago.
Once, they called themselves the "Interahamwe", or "those who kill together". Now, they seek respectability under a new name – the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, known by their French acronym FDLR – and their fighters are deployed in Eastern Congo's lawless provinces of North and South Kivu.
They are bitter enemies of General Laurent Nkunda, the renegade Congolese Tutsi who has thrown a noose around Goma, North Kivu's capital.
While global attention has focused on Gen Nkunda, the FDLR's presence is the central cause of the bloodshed.
Major Vincent Habamungu, who commands the FDLR's "Tiger" unit, told The Daily Telegraph that nothing could stop their campaign. "We are fighting every day because we are Hutu and they are Tutsis. We cannot mix, we are always in conflict," he said. "We will stay enemies forever."
The FDLR's official goal is to return to Rwanda and topple President Paul Kagame. Although the movement tries to disown the genocide, many believe the FDLR also wants to complete the extirpation of the Tutsis.
Gen Nkunda portrays himself as the protector of the Tutsis, who also live in eastern Congo. Hence the FLDR's presence provides the justification for his rebellion.
Today, Congo is trapped in what one United Nations official calls a "vicious circle" of conflict. As long as the FLDR fights on, Gen Nkunda's campaign will continue. But the FDLR says it will only disarm if Gen Nkunda does the same.
Major Habamungu, who spoke from the Ishasha area of North Kivu, said the FDLR would fight all the way back to Rwanda. "We came from Rwanda and we always want to go back to our homeland. We are soldiers and we want to go back as soldiers," he said.
Major Habamungu, 38, joined the army of Rwanda's previous regime 15 years ago. He denies any part in the genocide of 1994.
"I cannot be accused because personally I did nothing in the genocide. I was only a soldier and a soldier protects people," he said.
As for the FDLR's responsibility, Major Habamungu said: "Everybody killed, Tutsis and Hutus. They accuse us of carrying out the genocide, but everybody killed."
This revisionism infuriates Rwanda's government. Mr Kagame also believes that European countries have shown inexcusable lenience towards the FDLR, despite its genocidal history.
The movement's overall leader, Ignace Murwanashyaka, has found refuge in Germany, where he lives in Mannheim. Also living in Germany is the FDLR's secretary-general, Callixte Mbarashimana.
The German authorities have arrested both men from time to time – but they have always been released.
America has criticised Germany's attitude, expressing "disappointment" that both men are "able to operate with impunity although they continue to support FDLR efforts to evade justice, propagate violence, abuse civilians, and illegally exploit Congo's mineral wealth".
Under UN Resolution 1804, President Joseph Kabila of Congo is obliged to disarm and repatriate the FDLR. Instead, he views them as tacit allies against Gen Nkunda's forces.
Meanwhile, the UN is making its own efforts to encourage FDLR fighters to surrender, but these move at a snail's pace.
For his part, Major Habamungu candidly summarised his movement's ideology. "We will never live in peace with them [Tutsis]. We have to fight them all the time," he said.
Photo: FDLR soldiers at a base in Lushebere in the Massasi district, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo Photo: AFP/Getty Images