With sales of Hemp, charcoal, ivory and taxation – Rwandan FDLR rebels are making millions of dollars annually with help from Congolese army units in the east of the massive country, according to classified MONUSCO document sent to New York.
This report was prepared in 2014 by the UN mission in Congo the same year. There is no evidence today to suggest the militia has stopped the businesses.
The militia group calling itself the democratic forces for the liberation of Rwanda or FDLR maintained a large business empire managed by Gen Sylvestre Mudacumura. He was killed in September 2019. Mudacumura was assisted by Defence Commissioner, Augustin Nsengimana.
To operate without any problems, Congolese army officers provided safe passage for goods which would have been supplied to wives of the Congolese officers by FDLR contacts. The Congolese military officers are on the battle-front, but their wives are managing booming businesses.
These never-before details were compiled in a classified investigation sent to UN HQ New York in July 2014 by the UN mission in DR Congo – or MONUSCO. The MONUSCO document was prepared by the ‘Joint Mission Analysis Cell’ (JMAC) and titled at top in red as “STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL”.
The document was titled: “JMAC NTF: FDLR Incorporated? The movement’s business model at a crossroads”.
For North Kivu, the FDLR team in charge of making money is called “Miroir” – now based in the Kasugho area (approx. 70 km West of Lubero-Centre), where gold mining is pursued. For South Kivu, unit in charge of money generation, previously known as “Lunette”, was dissolved and was replaced by three liaison offices.
These are called Antennas, said the report. Apart from liaison functions, according to the MONUSCO document, those antennas also play a role in trafficking. The FDLR men responsible for these operations were Col Bonheur in Burhinyi (Mwenga), Lt Maurice in Mulenge (Uvira), and Adjutant Kidumu in Kanyantende (Mwenga).
In North Kivu province alone, the militia – whose members executed the genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda and fled to Congo, had a group in charge of business totalling about 200 combatants.
“A general estimate (of FDLR revenues) arrives at several millions of US dollars. Much of the income is generated through taxation,” says the report.
“Profits are shared between FDLR, FARDC, and local Mayi-Mayi groups. ICCN estimates that illegal fishing and charcoal production annually generate around U$$32million and US$35 million respectively.”
The ICCN is the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature – which is a government agency – also managing the Virunga national park, whose director Emmanuel de Merode has been subject repeated ambushes by suspected FDLR militia.
According to the MONUSCO document, an estimated 92% of charcoal used in North Kivu comes from the Virunga National Park supplied by the FDLR. Approximately two FUSO trucks drive down the Kikuku – Sake axis every day, carrying 300 charcoal bags per truck on average.
FDLR sells each bag at around US $15 to businessmen, who, once in Goma, sell them at US $25 to US $30 each. The gross selling price could be around US $9,000 per day. The retail price could be up to US $18,000. Two other trucks are also supplying the Rutshuru – Goma axis each day, generating between US $8 to US $10 for each bag on the FDLR side. The gross selling price could be around US $4,800 to US $9,600 per day.
The FDLR illicit trade involves timber, hemp, illegal fishing, poaching and gold mining. When combined with illegal taxation, the total revenue from these sectors totals at least $71million annually, according to estimates in the confidential report.
Regarding the hemp (urumogi in Kinyarwanda) production, in the border area of Lubero- Walikale and in Ruthsuru, enormous amounts of ‘chanvre’ – the local variety of cannabis – are cultivated. The FDLR rebels controls most of the production. The most important fields are situated in the villages of Ikobo, Lusamambo, Bukumbirwa, Buleusa, Miriki, Luofu Lusogha Kanandavuko, Lueshe, Mirangi and Kateku.
Every harvest period approximately 10 tons of hemp is being produced. In a year, there are four production seasons. The biggest trade center is located in Miriki on the border of the Lubero and Walikale territories – eastern DRC.
“The principal buyers are wives of FARDC officers. (The FARDC controls the route to Goma via Rutshuru),” noted the classified report.
“The officers’ wives are the ‘négociants’ (traders) who buy the drugs; their husbands facilitate the transport. The FARDC has been involved in the drugs traffic for a long time.”
The document added: “The transport is organized during the night. Youngsters, escorted by FDLR elements, carry bags of 60 kilos of hemp on their backs from the villages to the road. The drugs are loaded on trucks and hidden beneath layers of manioc bags. The trucks leave from the towns of Kayna, Kanyabayonga or Kirumba.”
FDLR resource mobilization also focuses on illegal taxation in some mining sites in Itombwe, Burhinyi, and Mukungwe, as well as on small-scale gold trade, the taxation of trade, charcoal, and the culture/exportation of hemp to Uvira – on to Burundi, and Tanzania through Mulenge, and Sange.
FDLR commanders in charge of business operations had reportedly established links with Butembo gold traders, which export their products through Kasindi border post, the third border post in North Kivu. FDLR money-making teams worked with officers within FARDC 85th Military Sector hierarchy for obtaining weapons and ammunition supply.
Between November 2013 and August 2014, the ICCN recorded the killing of five elephants in the general area of Kapopi (North West of Kiwanja) – several kilometres from Goma, the capital of North Kivu province. Poaching networks are involving local poachers, FDLR and FARDC officers.
The classified MONUSCO brief went on to say: “For instance in Kagando area (12 km N of Tongo), the wife of a local FDLR officer receives weapons from FARDC Lt Col Zaire Ndarihoranya (ethnic Hutu from Tongo, ex RCD-G, 1003rd Regt Cmdr in Beni up to January 2014, then called to Kinshasa). Weapons are handed over to a poacher group. When this group has collected enough ivory, the product is sent to Tongo, then Sake, where it is secured and later exported.”
In latest report handed to UN Security Council last month, the UN Group of Experts on DRC pointed out continued business operations by the FDLR. High-level collaboration with the Congolese military also continues, as both battle M23 rebels in east.