The FDLR are based in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and are considered one of the main sources of insecurity in the region. They have in their ranks elements suspected of participating in the anti-Tutsi genocide.
Speaking Sunday at a summit in Addis Ababa on the crisis in eastern DRC, Kikwete recommended negotiations between Kinshasa and M-23 rebels, but also between Kigali and the FDLR.
Genocide survivors’ organization Ibuka said such negotiations were unacceptable. “Ibuka strongly condemns President Kikwete’s statement as no negotiation is acceptable with a known terrorist group that is responsible for the death of more than a million Tutsis in Rwanda and continues its blood-thirsty activities in the eastern DR Congo,” said Ibuka president Jean-Pierre Dusingizemungu.
In an open letter to the UN Secretary General, the Association of Genocide Student Survivors and Alumni accused Kikwete of being a “genocide denier and revisionist” and demanded an apology for his “despicable utterances”.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame was present at Kikwete’s speech on Sunday but responded only with silence. It was his Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo who reacted the following day in an interview with RFI. “It doesn’t surprise us because the FDLR has lots of spokespeople. There are those who are aligned ideologically with the FDLR,” she said. “There are sympathies here and there. Amongst our neighbours but also far from Rwanda,” she added, saying that the Tanzanian president’s position was “abhorrent”.
Meanwhile Professor Pierre Rwanyindo, Director of the Kigali-based Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace (IRDP), told Rwanda’s New Times newspaper that Kikwete seems to ignore history. “He should first ask himself how FDLR ended up in Congo since they are not Congolese,” the paper quoted him as saying. “The Rwandan government encourages all Rwandan refugees to return home, but the FDLR just want to attack Rwanda because of the crimes they committed during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.”
Rwanda and Tanzania are both members of the East African Community (EAC), along with Burundi, Kenya and Uganda. Tanzania also hosts the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which is charged with bringing to justice the main architects of the 1994 genocide.