Rwanda: 2019 in Perspective - the Unrivalled Rout of Anti-Rwanda Militia in DR Congo

With regard to national stability and security dynamics - bearing in mind the landscape of criminal and armed militia in DR Congo - of the great lakes region of Africa, and particularly, Rwanda, 2019 was a standout year.

It is a year when we entered, full throttle, into a new phase of play on the regional geopolitics chessboard.

Renewed tension between Rwanda and Uganda aside - the latter is a topic that deserves its own page and exclusive focus - the past 12 months were fundamental in the Congolese government's effort to deliver peace, serenity, and calm to the people in its unstable east.

For the first time in many years, a Congolese leader, President Félix Tshisekedi followed through on his promise to deal with the problem of insecurity in the vast country's restless east, or "the granary of the republic," where a myriad of militia - local and foreign - wreaked havoc for decades.

In December 2018, a month before he was sworn into office, taking over from Joseph Kabila in the first peaceful transfer of power in the country for nearly 60 years, a UN Group of Experts report on the DR Congo noted how, for example, anti-Rwanda groups received arms and ammunition from Burundi and recruited fighters from neighboring countries like Uganda.

Upon reaching DR Congo, the report says, the recruits - most of them from Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda - were taken to the heights of the Hauts Plateaux to the militia's base in the Bijombo forest.

In the past, analysts noted how no amount of pressure would rout the FDLR - remnants of the masterminds of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi - from Congolese soil unless Kinshasa stopped propping them up.

The idea was that if former Congolese President Joseph Kabila's government cut off arms supplies, stopped the militia from plundering his country's natural resources and urged local chiefs (les chefs coutumiers) and the entire population to denounce them, the militias would be purged with little or no effort.

But in terms of crushing foreign militia groups, in 2019, the Congolese army's resolve was much more real than seen in previous operations including like the joint one with Rwanda code-named 'Umoja Wetu', a decade ago.

Most affected by the current surgical operations by the Congolese army were the negative forces of Rwandan origin.

The negative forces of Rwandan origin based there predominantly sprouted from the genocidal government army and militia groups that fled into DR Congo after participating in the slaughter of more than a million people during the 1994 Genocide. Inside the then Zaire, the genocidal army and its militia network regrouped and formed, in the late 1990s, what was then called the Army for the Liberation of Rwanda (ALIR). Later, in 2000, ALiR merged with another extremist group and formed the FDLR.

The stance President Tshisekedi adopted when he came to power has been a major factor.

He did not only talk but walked too, demonstrating that, like George Herbert, a Welsh-born seventeenth-century poet put it, "to him that will, ways are not wanting."

In 2019 the Congolese army stepped up military operations against illegally armed militia groups in the country's east.

By mid-December, 1,951 fighters of the Conseil national pour la renaissance et la démocratie (CNRD) militia group and their dependents were captured in the high plateaus of Kalehe territory, in South Kivu Province. Just about three days later, more than 400 militia members of the group surrendered while others were captured. This also happened soon after, the Kinshasa handed 291 CNRD/FDLR militia fighters over to Kigali.

On November 9, 2019, 'Gen' Musabyimana Juvenal, alias Jean-Michel Africa, the commander of RUD-Urunana was killed in Binza, Rutchuru, DR Congo. Barely a month after killing Musabyimana, Congolese forces also killed 'Gen' Jean-Pierre Gaseni, a commander of another anti-Rwanda group operating there.

In September, Congolese forces killed 'Gen' Sylvestre Mudacumura, the former supreme commander of the FDLR genocidal militia, a man who had evaded capture for more than two decades.

jkaruhanga@newtimesrwanda.com

Follow https://twitter.com/KarhangaJames

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