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A New(ish) FDLR Leadership

The FDLR met a few weeks ago in the forests of the eastern Congo to decide on a new leadership. No great surprises here: Gen. Gaston Iyamuremye (aka Gaston Rumuli), who had been serving as interim president since the arrest of Ignace Murwanashyaka in Germany in 2009, was confirmed at president. The vice-president is Callixte Mbarushimana, the controversial former Executive Secretary of the movement, based in Paris.

This re-shuffle does not change the military leadership of the movement, which is led by Gen. Sylvestre Mudacumura and his deputy Gen. Stanislas Nzeyimana (aka Bigaruka), based in North and South Kivu, respectively.

Gen. Rumuli, as he is known, is sixty-two years old now and is originally from Ruhengeri, in the north of Rwanda. He was the commander of a logistics battalion during the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, although his exact involvement in the genocide not known. He worked his way up through the ranks of the FDLR in the Congo from brigade commander to G5 (head of mobilization and propaganda) to minister of defense and now president. His wife Josée lives in Rulindo, Rwanda, where she is a teacher. They have two daughters, who are also in Rwanda.

The fact that the FDLR would appoint a military man based in the eastern Congo as the head of their civilian wing is significant. That wing was created in 2000 to give the group more international legitimacy and to network with the Diaspora and diplomats. It will obviously be difficult for Gen. Rumuli, as he is known, to field press calls and attend meetings with the Diaspora if he is based in the eastern Congo. It will also be more difficult for him to be arrested. This suggests that the military leadership is taking back control of the movement and emphasizing the military struggle – not too surprising, as they have become increasingly known for the serial abuses against the local Congolese population.

Nonetheless, the group has maintained some high-profile leaders in the Diaspora, in particular the firebrand Callixte Mbarumshimana. Hopefully, this will give the French authorities more reason to prosecute him, especially as he has been known to get involved directly in military operations, as was recently evident when he intervened to halt a UN operation to return thousands of Rwandan Hutu civilians to Rwanda.

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