AFRICA - Info: main armed groups in the Great Lakes Region

Friday, 3 September 2004

Rome (Fides Service) - Various armies and guerrilla groups operate in the Great Lakes region of Africa, which comprises the countries of Democratic Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. The groups fight against or with each other according to the circumstances, in a tangle of inextricable and undisclosed relations. Here is a short description of the various groups.

Interahamwe and former FAR (Forces Armées Rwandaises). This group is composed of militiamen and former soldiers of the Rwandan army responsible for the genocide in 1994 who fled Rwanda 10 years ago and settled in east Congo. On the grounds that it needs to protect itself from possible incursions by the latter, Rwanda has troops over the border in Congolese territory.

RCD (Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie). This is the main rebel group composed of Banyamulenge, Congolese Tutsi who moved here from Rwanda. This group signed an agreement with the government and has representatives in the interim government. On 2 September these RCD representatives returned to government after a nine day walk-out to protest against a massacre at Gatumba refugee camp, in which 166 Congolese refugees, mostly women and children, were killed during a night time raid on 13 August. During the Summer months two former RCD members Colonel Mutebusi and General Nkunda, now officers in the unified army of Congo, led a group of rebel soldiers in an attempt to take certain strategic centres in Kivu.

Mai Mai. Traditional Congolese warriors. Armed groups present in Kivu since the 1980s are generically referred to as Mai Mai. Backed by the government of Kinshasa these groups fought against the RCD rebels and Rwandan forces in the 1998-2003 war. However some Mai Mai, groups occasionally fight with Rwandan forces.

FLN (National Liberation Forces): this is the second rebel group in Burundi, composed mainly of Hutu, which controls the area around the capital Bujumbura. Until recently it had bases also in eastern Congo where it took part in military operations with Interahamwe and Mai Mai guerrillas. Unlike the FDD (Forces for the Defence of Democracy) the largest rebel group in Burundi which signed an agreement and is represented in the interim government, the FLN has no agreement with the government. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 3/9/2004 righe parole)