The FDLR emerged from parts of the former Rwandan army and the extremist Hutu militias who committed the genocide of the Tutsi population in Rwanda in 1994. The declared main goal of this armed group is the fight against the current regime in their home country Rwanda. With targeted warfare, the FDLR has been able to control entire regions in the neighboring eastern Congolese Kivu provinces for years.
The FDLR rebels are known for the use of terror and the most brutal violence against the civilian population, such as mass rape and mutilation.
In November 2009, two political leaders of the FDLR, President Ignace Murwanashyaka and his deputy Straton Musoni, were arrested in Germany, where they had lived for several years and from where they led the rebel organization for about ten years. They were charged with serious war crimes and violations of international law. At the end of September 2015, her conviction took place after a four-year lengthy trial before the Stuttgart Higher Regional Court. Murwanashyaka, sentenced to 13 years in prison for ring-leading a terrorist organization and aiding and abetting war crimes,died in custody in April 2019. Musoni, who was sentenced to 8 years in prison, was released while the sentence was being delivered. At that point, he had already been detained for 6 years.
In December 2018, the Federal Court of Justice partially overturned the judgment in the appeal and referred it back to the OLG Stuttgart. The BGH has confirmed the findings of ringleadership, and also reassessed the crimes of the FDLR not only as war crimes but as crimes against humanity. To clarify the aid, a new start of the process in Stuttgart, which was expected to start in May 2019, would have been necessary. The main defendant Murwanashyaka died shortly before that.
Consequences for the civilian population – endless suffering
In the course of the conflict there were repeated massive movements of refugees. Millions of refugees, internally displaced people and returnees live in dire conditions. A large number of people that is difficult to determine (the media estimates between three and five million) are said to have died in this war.
Conflicts in diplomatic relations with France
According to ethnicityology, the reason for a particularly difficult chapter in the history of Rwanda’s diplomatic relationship with the French state is the polemic that has been going on for years about the role of France during the genocide in spring 1994. Before and during the genocide, France was, politically and militarily, the most important ally of the Rwandans at the time Government. Furthermore, towards the end of the genocide, the French government intervened in the conflict with a controversial military operation (Opértion turquoise). In contrast to Belgium, the US and the United Nations (which criticized themselves in 2000 for not doing anything about the genocide), France did so far neither offered an apology to Rwanda nor dared to fully grapple with one’s own role. In French political circles there were supporters of the thesis that Rwanda’s RPF rebel army at the time, led by the current president, was behind the shooting down of the former president’s machine and thus triggered the genocide.
At the end of 2006 the diplomatic conflict between Paris and Kigali escalated. Rwanda decided on November 24, 2006 to sever all diplomatic relations with France. The French ambassador had to leave the country within 24 hours. As in 2004, it was triggered by an investigation report by Jean-Louis Bruguière, a French anti-terrorism investigating magistrate. The reason for his intervention was the fact that the pilots of the crashed presidential plane were French citizens.
In a 64-page document, he asked for arrest warrants to be issued against nine leading figures in Rwanda, all of whom belonged to the former rebel leadership of the RPF and who were near or far from President Paul Kagame.
At the end of November 2009 it became apparent that the diplomatic conflict was easing. Both countries announced the decision to resume diplomatic relations. The new French government of Nicolas Sarkozy, especially Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, tried hard to find a solution to the conflict. At the end of 2010, President Sarkozy made a symbolic state visit to Rwanda, which was returned by President Kagame about a year later.
Since President Kagame’s visit to France in September 2011, the first visit by a Rwandan head of state to the former main strategic partner since the genocide of 1994, one can speak of a normalization of relations. However, France’s previous strong influence has dwindled. Some political decisions in recent years have linked Rwanda to a new position in favor of Great Britain and the USA. For example, French has meanwhile lost its former supremacy as the official language in favor of English. Furthermore, on November 29, 2009, Rwanda became the 54th member of the Commonwealth. This positive decision on the difficult membership application was made on the day of resumption of diplomatic relations with France.