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Is Agathon Rwasa in eastern Congo?

Sources close to the FDLR suggest that Burundian FNL leader Agathon Rwasa might be in touch with the Rwandan rebel group in the eastern Congo. More precisely, he is supposed to be in northern Mwenga territory, close to the border with Walungu and Shabunda.

The former Burundian rebel leader and presidential candidate fled Burundi last month fearing arrest in the run-up to elections. He was later reported to be in the eastern Congo, and he himself has been on local radio stations, saying he had to leave the country due to concerns for his safety.

At the same time, sources within Burundi suggest that the FNL has begun re-recruiting some of its demobilized soldiers. The election boycott by the opposition and the expected victory by the CNDD-FDD in local, legislative and presidential elections had apparently radicalized some members of the opposition.

These are reliable sources, but as yet not fully confirmed, and I am sure Nkurunziza’s government would encourage the dissemination of such rumors. An alliance between the FNL and FDLR would serious undermine the former Burundian rebel leader’s reputation, could be a serious threat to stability in the region and could bolster President Nkurunziza’s dented reputation. We should, however, recall that during the thick of the Burundian civil war, the FNL were based largely in Burundi. To the extent that they did have rear bases in the Kivus, they struck up coalitions with Mai-Mai groups and only to a lesser extent with the Rwandan FDLR.

I doubt Kinshasa would be happy about Agathon’s presence in the Kivus, as it would only underscore the weakness of its army and would provide a morale booster for the FDLR, who are desperate for a lifeline.

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