The Armed Forces of Rwanda (FAR) was the army of the ethnic Hutu-dominated Rwandan regime that carried out the genocide of 500,000 or more Tutsis and regime opponents in 1994. The Interahamwe was the civilian militia force that carried out much of the killing. The groups merged and recruited additional fighters after they were forced from Rwanda into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC; then Zaire) in 1994. They became known as the Army for the Liberation of Rwanda (ALIR), which is the armed branch of the PALIR or Party for the Liberation of Rwanda. In 2001, ALIR—while not formally disbanded—was supplanted by the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). Though directly descended from those who organized and carried out the genocide, identified FDLR leaders are not thought to have played a role in the killing. They have worked to build bridges to other opponents of the Kigali regime, including ethnic Tutsis.
ALIR sought to topple Rwanda’s Tutsi-dominated government, reinstitute Hutu domination, and, possibly, complete the genocide. In 1996, a message—allegedly from the ALIR—threatened to kill the US ambassador to Rwanda and other US citizens. In 1999, ALIR guerrillas critical of alleged US-UK support for the Rwandan regime kidnapped and killed eight foreign tourists, including two US citizens, in a game park on the Democratic Republic of Congo-Uganda border. In the 1998-2002 Congolese war, the ALIR/FDLR was allied with Kinshasa against the Rwandan invaders. FDLR’s political wing has mainly sought to topple the Kigali regime via alliance with Tutsi regime opponents. They established the ADRN Igihango alliance in 2002, but it has not resonated politically in Rwanda.
Exact strength is unknown, but several thousand FDLR guerrillas operate in eastern DRC close to the Rwandan border. In 2003, the United Nations, with Rwandan assistance, repatriated close to 1,500 FDLR combatants from the DRC. The senior FDLR military commander returned to Rwanda in November 2003 and has been working with Kigali to encourage the return of his comrades.
Location/Area of Operation
Mostly eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo provided training, arms, and supplies to ALIR forces to combat Rwandan armed forces that invaded the DRC in 1998 but halted that support in 2002.