We have all been so busy lamenting the atrocities committed by the FDLR that we have missed some of the good news. Yes, not only that the Vice President Callixte Mbarushimana was arrested in Paris yesterday on an ICC warrant. But also that the rebels suffered their largest military defection in over a year when the head of one of their battalions, Lt. Col. Elie Mutarambwira (aka Safari), defected with the help of MONUSCO. (Ok, it happened almost a month ago, but the press never really picked it up).
Things have not been going smoothly for the FDLR. They have been badly battered by the various operations launched against them by the Congolese army, MONUSCO and the Rwandan army since January 2009. Around 2,300 have been demobilized by MONUSCO since then and certainly at least several hundred more have been killed, perhaps many more. UN officials estimate that between 3,000 and 3,500 remain in the Kivus, down from 5,000-7,000 in 2008, although estimates are always difficult, especially since we don’t know how many new recruits are coming in.
Defectors report deep divisions in the ranks of the FDLR between the northerners and southerners – the same divisions that tore Habyarimana’s government apart, as well. The FDLR now spend a lot of their time organizing new alliances with Congolese armed groups to help strengthen them. They have struck up alliances with the Mai-Mai Cheka, Mai-Mai Kalingiti, Mai-Mai Kifuafua, Mai-Mai Aochi, Mai-Mai Populaire and Mai-Mai Kirikicho. I don’t even know all these new groups.
At the same time, a splinter group of FDLR, ex-CNDP and Mai-Mai called FPLC has been reported in Mwenga territory, South Kivu. They allegedly decapitated a Congolese army officer on September 17th and left a note on his body, demanding negotiations with the Congolese government.
For those who really care, here are the positions for the FDLR in North Kivu:
- UN sources also indicate that FDLR Commander Gen. Mudacamura is located at Kahembe (Walikale), while FDLR Commissar of Defence Gen Poete Ropike is located at Mashake (east of Ntoto). Each has a detachment of soldiers with him.
- Someka Battalion, formerly commanded by the repatriated Lt Col Safari, is now led by Major Solomindende Simba aka Ruhinda in Rutare, Virunga National Park.
- Concorde Battalion is based in Mukoberwa forest, western Masisi, and is led by Col. Sadiki Soleil.
- Sabena Battalion is based in Bukonde in the northern Masisi forest and led by Col. Limuko