Captain Jean Baptiste Gakwandi, a founding member of FDLR rebels based in DRC has dropped guns and headed back home in Rwanda.
Gakwandi 47, who hails from Rutare sector in Gicumbi district-Northern Rwanda, was deputy commander of the Holeb Maj Marius Unit of FDLR located at Rutare in Rutchuru, a zone in North Kivu-Eastern DRC.
The zone is close to Kiwanja village, which is known for militia atrocities for over a decade.
Formally a Caporal Gendarme in the Habyarimana government, Gakwandi was also among the founding members of ALIR in 1997, a group that would change name into FDLR after merger with other groups.
“For so long, I was detained by a false propaganda by my superiors who still convince militiamen that they will attack Rwanda and win. It is a lie; they are well aware it is just unrealistic,” he said.
Gakwandi believed in his superiors who brand Rwandan leaders as criminals, and decided to send his family alone (wife and two children) in October 2015.
The family, established in Buyoga of Rulindo district of Northern Rwanda kept updating him with reports that the information he used to get from his commanders was false.
The Captain obtained more information on Rwanda from Major Noah, another former senior commander in FDLR who deserted in September.
“I am lucky to be back in my country to take care of my beloved family and think about a better future with compatriots,” he said.
Gakwandi crossed to Rwanda on December 18, 2015 via Goma-Rubavu boarder, Western Rwanda.
He was escorted with three other combatants including; Sergeant Emmanuel Bizimungu, Thadee Ndahimana, a Warrant officer also former body guard of Major Noah and Private Vital Hakizimana 23.
The latter had fled to DRC when he was still a toddler on the back of his mother 21 years ago. From the contacts he got, he knows that his home is in Kibungo, Eastern Rwanda.
Officers in charge of demobilization and repatriation will have to track his origin, as they do for any child combatant.
The former combatants were accompanied with 13 family members, making the total number 17.
The families had earlier reported to Monusco, the UN mission to DRC which escorted them to Rwanda.
Ndahimana told KT Press that they took the last decision to leave FDLR after Congolese rebel groups started attacking them more regularly yet they had run out of ammunition.
“Mai Mai Cheka, a Congolese militia opened fire to us on 22 November where we lost three warrant officers. We pulled out trying to join our senior commander Rumuli who was believed to be hiding at Rushamambo center,.”
The deserters told KT Press that, for months now FDLR is unstable and weak than ever before.