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News Reports and Films Encouraged Rwandan Rebels to Return Home

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To support the peace building and stabilization process in the Great Lakes Region, Internews Europe has produced a series of documentary films and news reports under its current Media for Reconciliation program.

For years civil war and instability have reigned in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Many armed rebel groups from neighboring countries have taken refuge in the forests of the region, most prominently the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) which consists in part of former Rwandan military personnel who are opposed to the government, and recruits from refugee camps from as far away as Tanzania.

To support the peace building and stabilization process in the Great Lakes Region, Internews Europe has produced a series of documentary films and news reports under its current Media for Reconciliation program. At least 36 former FDLR combatants have testified that they were convinced to return to Rwanda in part because they saw or heard an Internews production, according to the Rwandan Demobilization and Reintegration Committee.

“These films were shown on market day, the day when the combatants come to make business,” said Mukankuse Claudine, whose husband was a FDLR combatant. “I saw a film called The Way of Return. I arrived home, explained to my husband what I had seen, how beautiful I think Rwanda is and how I had seen people that were thought to be dead. After three days, he was already convinced and we returned.”

Within the program, Rwandan as well as Congolese journalists have been trained to report professionally on the demobilization process. Part of the training addresses superstitions about the demobilized. “In Congo, we believe that when they return they are treated like slaves. But meeting them in their real life changed everything,” said Agnès Sadiki, an Internews trained journalist for Radio Television Nationale Congolaise (RTNC) in Bukavu, South Kivu.

“The biggest part is bad information,” said a former FDLR member. “Even when the bosses know very well that someone has returned, they prefer to say that he just disappeared. For example, Captain Nzapfakumunsi, they convinced us that he was dead.”

And for those fighters who are too young to remember Rwanda, the films are their first chance to get a glimpse of their country.

Internews Europe’s work in Rwanda is funded by the European Commission - External Cooperation programmes (EuropeAid) and the Royal Embassy of Netherlands in Kigali.