Richard Mutarutinya: victim of FDLRâ€™s heinous propaganda
One fateful day, in 2011, Richard Mutarutinya, a young Rwandan who was living with his parents in the neighbouring Uganda received a strange call from an anonymous person.
Talking to the caller, the young man was requested by the person to meet him (caller) for a â€˜productiveâ€™ conversation.
Without informing any of his family members, Mutarutinya had to rush to the agreed venue where he was supposed to meet the person.
â€œI could not resist meeting this person since I was in daring need of employment,â€ narrates Mutarutinya
When Mutarutanya who has since returned back to Rwanda finally reached at the meeting venue, he surprisingly landed on a group of his other village mates.
â€œThey were excitedly seated with other people that I couldnâ€™t recognize well. But since I was with them, I felt comfortable and ready for the meeting agenda,â€ says Mutarutinya.
A few minutes later, the official meeting started. Mutarutinya and his friends were assured of a possible wealth if they accepted to be taken to Democratic Republic of Congo for white color jobs.
â€œThis is how I was convinced. I knew wealth was coming my way in the near future.â€
How life turned sour
It took Mutarutinya only one day to cross the Ugandan border to DRC before facing a harsh and terrorising life style. All those who promised him miracles had turned into animals, he says.
â€œEn route to DRC, after we crossed the Ugandan border, everyone started realizing something strange was going to happen. Those who formally seduced and promised us wonders turned against us. The new command was to join FDLR.â€
Because of intense threats against them, some of Munyarutinyaâ€™s group members started shouting and wanted a return home. However, those who screamed a return home were instead killed as a sign of terrorizing those who could attempt to follow suit.
â€œWhen we reached DRC, we were forced to join FDLR-RUD rebel group. Most of my friends started demanding to be returned back home and many among them lost their lives.
The genesis of FDLR bush life and threats
Mutarutinya says he is a living testimony today, after escaping death several times in the hands of what he called his commanders.
â€œBeing a Rwandan recruit in FDLR is risking your own life. You walk with death because anytime your commanders can kill you on suspicion of being a Rwandan spy. I witnessed many of my fellow recruits being killed with my own eyes,â€ says Mutarutinya.
According to him, being an FDLR soldier doesnâ€™t mean your task is only on the battle field. His main job in the rebel group was to grow food crops that feed his commanders.
â€œEven though you get recruited in FDLR as a soldier, it doesnâ€™t mean that you canâ€™t be tasked to do other things. For instance, I was tasked to lead a team that would be charged with stealing food crops from nearby villages. I decided to grow them (food crops) myself instead of fighting with civilians to get food,â€ he says
Because of a new assignment, Mutarutinya was given the chance to stay close to his crops in Mashyuta area which was under the command of Capt. Kije Joseph.
Unfortunately, Mutarutinya was later redeployed and joined a group of FDLR soldiers charged with guarding FDLR-RUD commander, Gen. Musare after his former commander was killed by lightening.
Witnessing brutal killings of former Rwandan students
Mutarutinya recalls witnessing a big number of FDLR recruits who were accused of being Rwandan spies.
â€œA few days after joining Gen. Musareâ€™s company, I witnessed horrible killings of fellow recruits. Out of 24 young men who were forcefully recruited into FDLR, 17 of them, formerly secondary students were killed before me on suspicion that they were Rwandan spies,â€ says a visibly regretting Mutarutinya.
He adds: â€œIt is absurd to see a comfortably living secondary school boy being seduced and recruited into FDLR to live in those thick forests with hard life just because he wants to be a soldier. I take this opportunity to warn fellow youth that there is nothing good in joining FDLR apart from dedicating your life to permanent agony mixed with forced labour.â€
Turning focus on return to Rwanda
After witnessing the brutal killing of his fellow recruits, Mutarutinya started a secret plan of returning back to his motherland.
â€œIt is not an easy project to plan escaping FDLR leaders. You need to do it in a highly secretive way, otherwise they can immediately kill you in case they realize of your escape plans. They kill you to purposely give a clear message to anyone attempting to do the same,â€ he says.
The killing of FDLR suspected defectors is also testified by Jean Shyaka, another former combatant who witnessed the same killing in Sinayi sector, an area controlled by FDLR.
â€œI witnessed the killing of two FDLR fighters who had defected in 2009 and later returned back this year. They were killed on grounds that they were no longer trusted.â€
Shyaka calls on fellow Rwandan youth especially those living near Ugandan borders to desist any form of persuasion by FDLR agents to recruit them.
Other main target of FDRL recruits, according to Shyaka, is Rwandans living in refugee camps in Uganda. He says that the camps are full of FDLR agents who persuade young men on promises to give them well paying jobs in DRC.
FDLR accused of rape, looting and killing civilians
Local residents living in Luofu village, just metres away from FDLR territory, accuse rebels of mass killings, rape and looting. The village has been dominated FDLR for the past decade.
Speaking to BBC, village residents said that FDLR rebels extort money from locals, pillaged farmersâ€™ harvests and set up road blocks, demanding money or goods from anyone travelling through.
The residents also accuse the Congolese army (FARDC) of collaborating with FDLR, leaving locals to fend for themselves.
â€œAt one point, they [FDLR] came to burn the villagesâ€¦ more than 200 houses,â€ Eric Kambale, a trainee priest at Luofu parish told BBC.
â€œPeople burned inside, can you imagine? It terrified people. The Congolese army was one kilometre away when that happened.â€ He added