New Report: Deadly Militia FDLR Regrouping in Congo Despite Ticking Clock

Date: 
Nov 18, 2014

Enough Project Proposes 7 Non-Military Tactics to Help End FDLR Threat

November 18, 2014 – Facing a deadline from the UN Security Council and regional African governments to fully demobilize or face military operations by January 2, 2015, the rebel group in the Democratic Republic of the Congo known as the FDLR is currently regrouping, mobilizing political support, and continuing to pose a regional security threat. In a new report published today based on six months of field research in eastern Congo, “How to Dismantle a Deadly Militia,” the Enough Project proposes seven non-military approaches to help end the threat posed by the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR).

Responsible for numerous atrocities, including rape and torture, the FDLR is designated by the U.S. as a terrorist entity. Evidence from UN Experts reports and Enough Project field research suggests the FDLR’s current strategy is focused on reorganizing in three main areas: generating more income to trade for ammunition and weapons, mobilizing political support in an attempt to gain greater legitimacy, and preparing to avoid military defeat through alliance-building and recruitment. Senior FDLR officers visited the Kisangani disarmament camp over the past weekend but have not yet relocated there. 

The report further documents that the FDLR is profiting heavily by trading gold through North Kivu and Uganda and by illegally producing and trading charcoal from Virunga National Park, a trade worth an estimated $32 million per year.

“As its deadline to disarm approaches, the FDLR is still raising money, recruiting, and building alliances,” said Sasha Lezhnev, Associate Director of Policy for Congo, Great Lakes Region and LRA at the Enough Project. “Diplomats can act now on key non-military areas to pressure the group. U.S. Special Envoy Russ Feingold and others should pressure Congo to prosecute its army officers who collaborate with the FDLR and helping Virunga’s park rangers cut off the FDLR’s lucrative charcoal trade.”

Enough Project Congo-based Field Researcher Fidel Bafilemba said: “The FDLR cannot be defeated with a military-only strategy. Pressure will be important, but several non-military tools are available now to help dismantle the FDLR’s capacity to unleash atrocities. UN Special Envoy Said Djinnit and U.S. Special Envoy Feingold should urge the UN and Congo to help apprehend FDLR commander Sylvestre Mudacumura and to set up refugee camps for foreign refugees, so that the FDLR’s recruitment pool can be diminished.”

Enough Project Policy Analyst Holly Dranginis said, “The international community gave the FDLR an ultimatum -- disarm by January or face military operations. Leading up to that deadline, there is a robust set of non-military tactics that can help end the group's reign of terror, especially giving low-ranking fighters safety guarantees and reintegration support for voluntary defection.”

According to the report, the group is using illicit revenue, including illicit gold and charcoal extraction, to purchase ammunition and arms from Congolese army officers, with whom it continues to collaborate and share intelligence. The FDLR has also built alliances with several Congolese armed groups, including Maï-Maï Lafontaine and others, as well as new political alliances with four Rwandan opposition parties.

Despite the group’s rhetoric that its fighters are disarming, the FDLR has failed to meet several key deadlines to demobilize, and fewer than 200 rank-and-file FDLR soldiers have laid down their weapons.

Background on the FDLR:

Known as the FDLR, the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda is one of the most important and destructive armed groups in eastern Congo’s conflict. The group’s attacks have been characterized by particularly brutal practices, including rape, burning civilians alive, and other forms of torture.  The rebel militia has exacted a heavy toll on Congolese communities, and both Congolese civilians as well as those in neighboring Rwanda continue to be threatened by the group. Several FDLR leaders were involved in the Rwandan genocide that claimed 800,000 lives, and its chief military commander Sylvestre Mudacumura is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.  The group is under U.N. sanctions because of its repeated atrocities against civilians, and it is also on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations.  The FDLR is one of several remaining armed groups in eastern Congo, and ending its threat must be coupled with democratic reform within Congo, Rwanda, and the region.

Link to full report, “How to Dismantle a Deadly Militia: Seven Non-Military Tactics to Help End the FDLR Threat in Congo”: http://eno.ug/1uv4DSJ

For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact: Greg Hittelman, Communications Director, +1 310-717-0606, gh@enoughproject.org

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The Enough Project is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, Enough focuses on the crises in Sudan, South Sudan, eastern Congo, Central African Republic, and areas affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Enough conducts intensive field research, develops practical policies to address these crises, and shares sensible tools to empower citizens and groups working for change. To learn more: www.enoughproject.org.