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Rwanda: The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda, FDLR)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 1 October 2007
Citation / Document Symbol RWA102594.FE
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Rwanda: The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda, FDLR), 1 October 2007, RWA102594.FE, available at: [accessed 18 February 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda, FDLR) was formerly known as the Army for the Liberation of Rwanda (Armée pour la libération du Rwanda, ALIR) (US 30 Apr. 2007, Ch. 2; UK 24 Jan. 2007, Para. 3.8.2; Jeune Afrique 22 June 2003). The FDLR is a Hutu rebel group that conducts its operations from the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) (Reuters 24 Aug. 2007; US 30 Apr. 2007; 27 Apr. 2005). The FDLR is reportedly made up primarily of individuals responsible for the genocide who fled Rwanda in 1994 and who oppose President Paul Kagamé's government (US 6 Mar. 2007; AFP 17 July. 2007; AP 28 May 2007). It includes members of the former Rwandan Armed Forces (ex-Forces armées rwandaises, ex-FAR), as well as interahamwe militants (AI 28 Sept. 2005, "Glossary of Acronyms"; UN 3 Aug. 2007; The New Times 27 Aug. 2007). According to estimates, the FDLR has several thousand members (AI 28 Sept. 2005, Sec. 1c; Jeune Afrique 22 June 2003; AFP 14 Aug. 2007). Led by Ignace Murwanashyaka (BBC 4 Nov. 2005; PHW 2007 2007, 426), the FDLR controls many parts of North Kivu (Reuters 11 Aug. 2007). Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that the FDLR controls about 50 percent of the provinces of North and South Kivu (14 Aug. 2007).

Amnesty International (AI) and the United Nations (UN) Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) state that the FDLR has committed many human rights violations, including pillaging, rape, mass murder (AI 28 Sept. 2005, Sec. 1c; UN 3 Aug. 2007; ibid. 5 Sept. 2007), kidnapping, and the use of child soldiers (AI 28 Sept. 2005, Sec. 1c). More specifically, a Rwanda News Agency article reports that the FDLR pillaged 17 homes in a North Kivu village (12 Aug. 2007). An article in the Rwandan daily newspaper The New Times reports that the FDLR "contrive[s] to unleash terror and murder" on the Congolese people (27 Aug. 2007). The Rwandan foreign affairs minister has stated that the FDLR is still active politically and militarily in eastern DRC and that the group is largely responsible for the insecurity and instability in that region (UN 5 Sept. 2007).

The offensive launched against the FDLR by the Congolese army in 2005 was reportedly suspended in 2007 because it was difficult to distinguish the Rwandan Hutu soldiers of the FDLR from the Congolese Hutu soldiers (Le Potentiel 16 Aug. 2007; AFP 14 Aug. 2007). Reuters attributes the suspension to the desire to [translation] "prevent an escalation ... of ethnic tensions in eastern DRC" (11 Aug. 2007). A Rwanda News Agency article indicates that the suspension followed intervention from the UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Mission des Nations Unies en République Démocratique du Congo, MONUC), because of fears that the operations were becoming a campaign targeting all Hutus without distinction (12 Aug. 2007). However, a general with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Forces armées de la Republique democratique du Congo, FARDC) refuted the report, stating that the chief of staff had not announced a suspension of operations against the FDLR, but rather had said that the combined and integrated units (les unités brassées et intégrées) were going to continue the war against the FDLR (Xinhua News Agency 15 Aug. 2007). An article in the daily newspaper The New Times indicated that the military leaders of the four Great Lakes region countries agreed that the DRC could launch further military operations against the FDLR before the end of September 2007 (28 Aug. 2007).

On 31 March 2005, the FDLR issued a statement condemning the 1994 genocide, renouncing the use of force and all offensives against Rwanda, and announcing that they would return peaceably to Rwanda (AI 28 Sept. 2005, Sec. 1c; UN 1 Apr. 2005). However, according to AI, the commanding officers of the FDLR were still refusing to return to Rwanda and were preventing their members from doing so (28 Sept. 2005, Sec. 1c; see also UN 1 Apr. 2005). Moreover, the UN Security Council issued a statement on 4 October 2005 calling on the FDLR to honour the commitments that it made on 31 March 2005. According to the Belga News Agency, 1,500 FDLR members returned to Rwanda in 2006 as part of the FDLR member repatriation program (7 June 2007). In 2003, Jeune Afrique indicated that the FDLR was estimated to have between 15,000 and 22,000 members; in April 2005, estimated that there were between 15,000 and 20,000 members (27 Apr. 2005). According to more recent sources, the FDLR has between 6,000 and 7,000 members (AFP 14 Aug. 2007) or between 8,000 and 10,000 members (UN 3 Aug. 2007; AI 28 Sept. 2005, Sec. 1c).

A number of sources also mention the Rastas, a group that reportedly has ties to the FDLR (AI 28 Sept. 2005, Sec. 1c; UN 3 Aug. 2007). This group of "bandits" has allegedly kidnapped people and then demanded a ransom from the victims' families (ibid.; AI 28 Sept. 2005, Sec. 1c). Cable News Network (CN) and AI report that the Rastas have split from the FDLR (CN 27 May 2007; AI 28 Sept. 2005, sect. 1c). According to IRIN, the Rastas operate in FDLR-held regions (UN 3 Aug. 2007). However, the FDLR denies any link to the Rastas (AI 28 Sept. 2005, Sec. 1c; UN 3 Aug. 2007).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France-Presse (AFP). 14 August 2007. "L'armée suspend ses opérations contre les rebelles rwandais dans l'est." ( [Accessed 5 Sept. 2007]
_____. 17 July 2007. "Les FDLR nient être liés à un trafic d'or avec des Casques bleus en RDC." (Factiva)

Amnesty International (AI). 28 September 2005. "Democratic Republic of Congo - North Kivu: Civilians Pay the Price for Political and Military Rivalry." (AFR 62/013/2005) [Accessed 5 Sept. 2007]

Associated Press (AP). 28 May 2007. "Massacre dans l'est du Congo : 29 morts, selon un nouveau bilan." (Le Nouvel Observateur) [Accessed 4 Sept. 2007]

Belga News Agency. 7 June 2007. "Grands Lacs : nouvelle réunion de la 'Tripartite + 1' sur la sécurité." (Factiva)

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 4 November 2005. "L'ONU multiplie les initiatives de paix en RDC." [Accessed 4 Sept. 2007]

Cable News Network (CN). 27 May 2007. "U.N.: Rwandan Rebels Kill 17 in Village Attacks." [Accessed 5 Sept. 2007] 27 April 2005. "Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) (Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda)." [Accessed 4 Sept. 2007]

Jeune Afrique. 22 June 2003. Jean-Dominique Geslin. "Qui sont les combattants des FDLR?" [Accessed 26 Sept. 2007]

The New Times [Kigali]. 28 August 2007. Felly Kimenyi. "DR Congo to Renew FDLR Operations." [Accessed 10 Sept. 2007]
_____. 27 August 2007. "Country Should Resolve FDLR or Accept Help." [Accessed 10 Sept. 2007]

Political Handbook of the World (PHW 2007). 2007. "Rwanda." Edited by Arthur S. Banks, Thomas C. Muller and William R. Overstreet. Washington, DC: CQ Press.

Le Potentiel [Kinshasa]. 16 August 2007. "Les FDLR satisfaites de la suspension des opérations militaires des FARDC." [Accessed 4 Sept. 2007]

Reuters. 24 August 2007. "RDC - l'armée fragilisée par le retrait d'ex-rebelles tutsis." (Factiva)
_____. 11 August 2007. "RDC - l'armée suspend ses opérations contre les FDLR." (Factiva)

Rwanda News Agency. 12 August 2007. "Rebels Pillage Congo Village." (AllAfrica) [Accessed 5 Sept. 2007]

United Kingdom (UK). 24 January 2007. Home Office. Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND). "Operational Guidance Note: Rwanda." [Accessed 6 Sept. 2007]

United Nations (UN). 3 August 2007. Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). "DRC: Behind the Violence in South Kivu." [Accessed 5 Sept. 2007]
_____. 5 September 2007. Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). "DRC-Rwanda: Good Neighbourliness a Long Way Off - Analyst." [Accessed 5 Sept. 2007]
_____. 4 October 2005. Security Council. "Le Conseil exige que les Forces démocratiques pour la libération du Rwanda (FDLR) procèdent volontairement et sans délai ni conditions à leur désarmement et à leur retour au Rwanda." (CS/8518) [Accessed 5 Sept. 2007]
_____. 1 April 2005. Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). "RDC-Rwanda : les rebelles du FDLR prêts à déposer les armes." [Accessed 5 Sept. 2007]

United States (US). 30 April 2007. Department of State. "Rwanda." Country Reports on Terrorism. [Accessed 5 Sept. 2007]
_____. 6 March 2007. Department of State. "Rwanda." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006. [Accessed 30 Aug. 2007]

Xinhua News Agency. 15 August 2007. "RDC : poursuite des opérations militaires des FARDC contre les FDLR au Nord-Kivu." [Accessed 6 Sept. 2007]

Additional Sources Consulted

Publications: Political Parties of the World.

Internet sites, including: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), European Country of Origin Information Network (, Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR), Freedom House, Human Rights Watch (HRW), International Crisis Group, Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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