Rwanda implicated the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and a rebel outfit in the disappearance of two Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) soldiers last week. In a statement, RDF said the two soldiers, “Cpl [corporal] Nkundabagenzi Elysee and Pte [private] Ntwari Gad were being held by FDLR in eastern DRC”. The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda – also known by its French name, Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda, (FDLR) – is one of the last groups of Rwandan rebels still active in DRC.
FDLR was founded through an amalgamation of other groups of Rwandan refugees in September 2000, including the former Army for the Liberation of Rwanda. FDLR is primarily made up of some actors in the Rwanda genocide of 1994, who are against President Paul Kagame. RDF blames the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC), the DRC’s national army, for last week’s rocket attack on Rwandan civilians, calling it a “provocative aggression”, in which “multiple rockets were fired on Rwandan territory”.
RDF said the rocket shelling was followed by a joint operation by FDLR and FARDC, in which they attacked RDF soldiers, which resulted in the kidnapping of two soldiers on patrol. “FARDC, with FDLR, attacked RDF along our border, and two Rwanda Defence Force soldiers were kidnapped while on patrol,” the RDF said. The RDF has since appealed for the release of the soldiers. “We call on authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo, that work closely with these genocidal armed groups, to secure the release of the RDF soldiers,” RDF said.
There has been renewed fighting in eastern DRC between FARDC and the M23 rebel group, resulting in what some humanitarian agencies say has led to the displacement of at least 37 000 people. The DRC accuses Rwanda of aiding M23, while Rwanda implicates the DRC in working with a rebel group to destabilise Rwanda. Rwanda’s government spokesperson, Yolande Makolo, was on Thursday quoted by The New Times – an independent publication in Rwanda – as saying that, despite being attacked, they were not involved in the DRC fight, but took offence because of attacks on its civilians.
She said: While it would be legitimate for Rwanda to respond to the repetitive attacks of FARDC on our territory, Rwanda is not involved in the ongoing fighting in eastern DRC and has no intention of being drawn into an internal matter of the DRC. FARDC, with the help of UN peacekeeping forces, and in some cases the rebel FDLR, are battling M23.