The Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo sponsored the founding congress of the so-called Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia, a German court heard this week.
Appearing before the provincial court in the German city of Stuttgart on Monday, Straton Musoni, the incarcerated FDLR vice-president said Kinshasa had played a major role in the organisation of the group’s first meeting which convened in Lubumbashi, DRC’s second largest city, on May 1, 2000.
Musoni, along with his co-accused and FDLR president, Ignace Murwanashyaka, returned to court yesterday but the former did most of the talking while the latter remained tight-lipped, according to a German journalist attending the proceedings.
FDLR, which has maintained operational bases in eastern DRC, is composed of elements largely blamed for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi which killed more than a million people.
Prior to adopting the name FDLR, the militia had operated under various names, including ALIR I and ALIR II.
Speaking to The New Times yesterday, Dominic Johnson, editor of the German newspaper TAZ, said the accused – Murwanashyaka and Musoni – were both in the dock when the latter gave his prepared statement. “Musoni admitted he’s a founding member of the FDLR because he attended its founding conference in Lubumbashi which he said was funded by DRC government.”
Musoni told the court he and Murwanashyaka were among a three-member delegation from Europe that attended the FDLR’s founding conference.
The trial started on May 4, 2011 following the duo’s arrest in 2009 on a warrant issued by German federal prosecutors who said at the time the two were leaders of a “terrorist group that is accused of crimes against humanity and different war crimes.”
Meanwhile Musoni told the court he had since broken ranks with FDLR arguing that by the time of his arrest he was in the process of quitting since his five-year term as the group’s vice-president was coming to an end.
“I have left FDLR; I am stopping all political activities. I distance myself from all the (group’s) crimes and offer condolences to the victims (of FDLR’s crimes),” he told the bench led by Judge Jürgen Hettich.
Questioning is expected to resume on Friday, the last day of proceedings before the summer recess.
FDLR is also blamed for large scale human rights violations and crimes against humanity, including rape, pillaging and forceful recruitment of child soldiers in the perpetually restive eastern Congo.
The militia, blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by the United Nations, United States and several regional governments, has in recent days regrouped with the alleged support of the Kinshasa government.
FDLR has made at least two incursions on Rwanda over the last nine months.
Kigali and independent observers have accused Joseph Kabila’s government of collaborating with and supporting the militia but Kinshasa has rejected the allegations.
And FDLR is behind the July 26 grenade attack in Kigali’s commercial hub of Nyabugogo – which killed three people, injuring 31 others – according to one of the suspects, Jean de Dieu Ntakirutimana alias Rafik, himself a former FDLR combatant.
Ntakirutimana told reporters on Monday that the attack was carried out on the instructions of Col. Enock Bizimana, also known as Matovu, a top FDLR commander.