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“Rebel Soldiers Come Home from Congo”

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“Rebel Soldiers Come Home from Congo”

Posted by Laura Heaton on April 16, 2009

As we mentioned last week, a team from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is traveling in Africa’s Great Lakes region and sending excellent material from the meetings and events they’re attending. They recently visited a demobilization camp in Rwanda and spoke with former members of the FDLR, a Rwandan rebel group that’s been based in eastern Congo since 1994, after many in its leadership helped carry out the Rwandan genocide. Now, some of those who weren’t responsible for atrocities related to the genocide are returning home. Here’s a recent post by Michael Abramowitz on World Is Witness.

Here at the Mutobo demobilization camp, near Rwanda’s border with Congo, former soldiers from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation on Rwanda (FDLR) begin the process of re-entering Rwandan society.  The FDLR is one of the most violent guerrilla armies in the world and has been responsible for widespread looting, torture, killing and rape in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  But the Rwandan government takes the position that if FDLR soldiers were not involved in the genocide of 1994, they are welcome to rejoin society; the camp has seen an upsurge of returnees since the Rwandan and Congolese governments staged a new military crackdown on the guerrilla group earlier this year.

We spent an afternoon talking to some of the soldiers and a camp administrator, who outlined a policy of reconciliation towards the former soldiers. There are no fences and little overt security at this World Bank-funded camp; the residents sleep in bunk beds in corrugated aluminum dormitories. When we visited the facility, many of the residents were visiting family in other parts of Rwanda, on government-funded furloughs. There is little doubt among the administrators that these former soldiers will return to Mutobo camp, to finish the process of coming home to Rwanda.

Visit World Is Witness to learn more about the team’s current trip and see the photos they took at Mutobo.


Photo: Children of the FDLR at Mutobo demobilization camp in Rwanda.  April, 2009.  Michael Graham/USHMM.