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Rwanda rebel leaders: US, French, Spanish, and Congo business links

Leaked UN report shows FDLR, a brutal Rwandan rebel group operating in eastern Congo, operates gold, tin, and coltran mines. Key leaders still free in the US and France.

By Scott BaldaufStaff writer / December 2, 2009

United Nations peacekeepers, right, pass near a Rwandan Hutu FLDR rebel, left, as they patrol near a UN encampment in the heart of territory held by the rebels near the village of Kimua, eastern Congo, Oct. 2.

Rebecca Blackwell/AP



A leaked United Nations report on a shadowy Congolese rebel group may do what neither the Rwandan nor the Congolese militaries were able to do with their massive military joint operation: cut the rebels off from their foreign supporters and bring to an end their brutal uprising

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The leaked report, seen by the Monitor, was produced by the so-called UN "Group of Experts" and offers an inside look into how the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and its allied groups have been able to get funding for their operations in the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo for the past decade. It reveals a network of gold traders, arms merchants, and even faith-based organizations that have kept the violent rebel group supplied with food, arms, and political support.

The arrest last week of FDLR leader Ignace Murwanashyaka and his deputy by German police shows that the UN report has already begun to have ripple effects, with the potential of dismantling the FDLR rebel organization all the way back into the Congolese jungle.

"This is very important," says Guillaume Lacaille, a former political officer for the United Nations Mission in Congo (MONUC) and now an analyst (in Kenya) for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group. "MONUC has reacted very quickly to sensitize the ground-level troops of the FDLR, telling them, 'You know that the international community considers your group to be a terrorist organization, and they have already arrested your leaders. Your political agenda will never be accepted by the international community, so why are you still fighting in Congo?'"

The UN Group of Experts conducted its investigation over the past year by using everything from phone records of top FDLR officials to the testimony of arms merchants and minerals traders operating in Congo and throughout the region. The group's report shows the outlines of a rebel organization that started out with the aim of defending the interests of Rwandan and Congolese ethnic Hutus against the Tutsi-led Rwandan government, and ended up a lucrative business operation, controlling vast mineral-rich territories in Congo that kept its small army of 6,000 fighters armed and fed.

The report identifies and locates the FDLR's leadership, starting with Mr. Murwanashyaka and his deputy, Straton Musoni, on down to the French-based FDLR secretary-general Callixte Mbarushimana and two top FDLR leaders based in the United States, Jean Marie Vianney Higiro and Felicien Kanyamibwa. The report also finds that these FDLR leaders not only served political roles, but in the case of Murwanishyaka, Musoni, and Mbarushimana, also served as military commanders, coordinating the military attacks of ground troops in Congo, and arranging the influx of armaments from neighboring states and from as far away as North Korea.