End of the FDLR in Europe?
France's arrest last week of Callixte Mbarushimana, a key player in the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), has again put the spotlight on the group which has terrorised parts of Rwanda and the DR Congo for the past two decades.
Rwanda's Mbarushimana, the FDLR's secretary general, was captured in Paris at the request of the International Criminal Court (ICC) who is charging him with war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Congo. This follows the arrest of FDLR president Ignace Murwanashyaka and his deputy Straton Musoni late last year in Germany, where both are detained and awaiting trial.
Former FDLR soldiers say that Murwanashyaka sometimes visited their camps in Eastern Congo, but Mbarushimana never set foot on Congolese soil. The ICC says it has evidence on how he directed FDLR operations from Europe.
"To hear Callixte Mbarushimana on an international radio station, to hear your own boss talking on the BBC or Radio France, gave us the impression that our leaders were receiving support from France and Britain. That resulted in a huge boost of morale for our fighters," said a former FDLR fighter who had just arrived last month in Mutobo, a camp for demobilized soldiers in Rwanda. "We always thought that we had a lot of sympathy for our struggle in Europe and America, thanks to Mbarushimana", he said.