Negotiating with FDLR is “utter nonsense” – President Kagame President Paul Kagame has called Tanzanian counterpart, Kikwete’s recent FDRL comments “utter nonsense”. It’s for the first time, Kagame is responding to Jakaya Kikwete’s comments suggesting that the Rwandan government should negotiate with Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a DR Congo based rebel group responsible for the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, in Rwanda. Officiating a graduation ceremony of about 45 senior military officers, at the Rwanda Defence Forces Staff and Command College, on Monday, President Kagame, said suggested negotiations with FDLR, were spoken “out of ignorance” of Rwanda’s tragic history. “I kept quiet for the contempt I have for it (FDLR talks) because I thought it was utter nonsense spoken out of ignorance. We must be left to live our lives the way Rwandans want to live them,” observed a visibly incensed Kagame. Kagame described Kikwete’s counsel as, “dancing on the mass graves of our people.” President Kikwete’s comments were made during a meeting involving parties concerned with the Addis Ababa Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the region, in February/2013. Addressing participants who included Rwanda and Uganda Presidents, Kikwete suggested that Rwanda’s peace talks with FDRL would serve a lasting solution for the DR Congo crisis. Meanwhile, Kagame called the military graduands to acquire heightened sense of service and lead by example. He advised them to “operate with the spirit of defiance”. The graduation ceremony was attended by high ranking government and military officials, members of the diplomatic corp and other guests. Sympathy to FDLR President Kikwete’s comments have not been taken lightly in Rwanda and have since attracted a string of criticism condemning him for being ‘sympathetic’ to the FDLR rebel group that is composed of remnant Interahamwe militias. These are blamed for participating in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi that claimed over a million victims. Earlier comments by Foreign affairs minister, Louise Mushikiwabo described Kikwete’s suggestion as “aberrant” and “shocking”, while Prof. Pierre Rwanyindo of the Kigali-based Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace (IRDP) said Kikwete seems to “ignore the history”. A genocide survivors group also wrote to the US President Barack Obama, highlighting Kikwete’s seeming sympathy for a group that the US has shortlisted on its list of terrorist groups. Regional peace at stake As Tanzania maintains a non apologetic stance for giving what has been described as an ‘uninformed opinion’ on FDLR, many observers now believe that Kikwete’s comments may not favour regional peace, stability and cooperation. They believe only offers a shadow to hide FDLR’s heinous crimes on Congolese for the last 12 years. According to a Joint Report on Disarmament and Repatriation of All Armed Groups operating in the DRC published in 2006, FDLR was considered a threat to the entire region. The report observed that FDLR/FOCA and other armed groups in the DRC undermine any attempts at establishing a cross border security management system. It should be remembered that ALiR merged with FDLR as it tried to distance itself from attacks on Bwindi Forest Lodge in Uganda that claimed the lives of some tourists. A brief disturbing history After fleeing Rwanda in 1994, FDLR rebels have been operating in the DRC since 2001 after merging with The Army for the Liberation of Rwanda (ALiR). Now numbering about 2000, some of its senior officials are blacklisted for committing gross human rights violations, including rape, torture in Democratic Republic of Congo where they are holdup. The United States alone has staked $5 million (about Rwf3.2 billion) for information leading to the arrest, transfer and conviction of FDLR’s leader Sylvestre Mudacumura. Trials for FDLR leaders Ignace Murwanashyaka and Straton Musoni started 2011 in Germany. Western experts without expertise During his address at Nyakinama, President Kagame also accused the UN Group Experts for lack of expertise on African affairs. “They’re experts for one reason – they come from our colonial masters,” he said in direct reference to UN reports alleging Rwanda’s involvement in the DRC crisis. Rwanda has since termed them as “biased” and “unfounded” “The same people who wrote Rwanda’s story in 2012 are the same people waiting to do the same this year.” “We can’t have people running around saying all sorts of things… some still believe we must be held on a leash by colonial masters,” he added. Call for home-grown solutions President Kagame reminded guests that Rwanda was bent on seeking home-grown solutions for development and welfare of Rwandans. “Home-grown solutions are not only efficient, but also more operational and sustainable,” he said in reference to a set of policies and programmes initiated in Rwanda to respond to its unique challenges. These include Gacaca Courts for trying Genocide suspects, Umuganda for community welfare and bonding, Gir’inka that aims to improving people’s welfare through the One-Cow-per- one household, Ubudehe, an agricultural programme for improving yields and creating jobs. A recent one is Agaciro Development Fund which has so far raised Rwf30 billion to supplement the national budget. On aid cuts to Rwanda, President Kagame warned against such threats since Rwandans can still survive within the available means. “We can go back to our mountains and grow our potatoes. We did it and we survived,” he said. Rwanda recently experienced massive aid cut by donors Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and the US, but most of it has since been reinstated. “The will of our people is the will of our people and cannot be dictated,” Kagame observed before concluding his speech given after honouring the best performing military officers at the academy.