Dear Mr. Kobler,
We are young people from Rwanda living in various parts of the world. On the eve of possible military operations against the FDLR, we are extremely concerned about the plight of both the Rwandan refugees and Congolese civilians in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Having experienced similar wars with the same goal of neutralizing Rwandan rebels, we are strongly opposed to war as a solution to the FDLR problem.
We remember military operations such as Umoja Wetu, Kimia I, Kimia II and other covert operations, countless rebellions and militias supported by the Rwandan regime, such as RCD-Goma, CNDP, M23, Mai Mai Sheka, Mai Mai and many others. Each time, these wars have led to massacres of innocent civilians, displacement and other violence such as rape and looting. Yet the problem did not get resolved!
In 1996, some of us were in the Congolese forests fleeing extermination massacres by the current Rwandan military (APR) that targeted refugees as well as Congolese Hutu populations by the current Rwandan army APR period.
We were hunted like wild animals and massacred using machetes, bayonets, hoes and other hand weapons. Those who were lucky were killed by bullets and bombs. This happened in full view of the international community. At that time, no country, not even the UN attempted to protect or help save our lives. We were all labelled Interahamwe militia who had committed genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994. Under this pretext, we were doomed to be killed, starved, raped without anyone batting an eye.
It took 14 years for the UN officially acknowledge what happened to us through its DRC Mapping Exercise Report released on October 1, 2010. In this report , paragraphe 262, page 121 it states.:
“May 13, 1997 ..., the military entered the office of the local Red Cross and killed unaccompanied children who were awaiting repatriation to Rwanda. ... A three months old baby was still alive and was killed at the time of burial by AFDL / APR who oversaw the burial work.”
Today, the planned war promises survivors of massacres described above with returning them to live under the authority of the perpetrators, namely the Rwandan regime under Paul Kagame! This is a “best case” scenario as they are not guaranteed to survive the planned attacks. According to you, these refugees will be returned to live in “peace”.
As the plans to return vulnerable civilians to Rwanda press forward, we would like to remind you that massacres occurred in Rwanda this last year and more than 40 bodies were found in Lake Rweru. Opponents of the regime were hunted down and killed, while some senior military officers were imprisoned. Countless members and leaders of opposition political parties are languishing in prisons. This clearly demonstrates an important problem.
As has happened each time in the past, unless evacuated ahead of the attacks, civilian will not be spared. It seems that lives of millions of Eastern Congolese civilians and more than 100,000 Rwandan refugees are therefore insignificant and unimportant. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, recognized and warned that an attack against the FDLR would affect hundreds of thousands of civilians in eastern DRC.
Mr. Kobler, we advocate for a peaceful solution through dialogue. If the planned military operations press forward, we urge you to first evacuate civilians of all local cities where there are elements of the FDLR. Please consider your personal responsibility in the lost of innocent civilian lives.
Please realise that this would be the first time in history where the UN attacks a rebellion that requested negotiations and has already voluntarily disarmed and delivered 25% of its armed men.
We are committed to contribute to a peaceful and lasting solution through dialogue and hope that you will promote and privilege peace over war.
We entrust the follow up and communication regarding this letter to the following organisations:
Boulevard Auguste Reyers 70
Global Campaign for Rwandan’s Human Rights
London - UK