Thursday, January 5, 2012

FDLR behind Tuesday's Grenade Attack in Kigali?

On Tuesday, 4 January, grenade attacks rocked Remera, Kigali at approximately 640pm in the evening. Two died, at least 18 people required hospitalisation to treat their wounds. Graham Holliday of Reuters tweeted that he saw people missing limbs when he visited the hospital (his report here), but none of that news has been reported by the Rwanda authorities. Follow him at @noodlepie. A doctor treating some of the victims estimated at least 32 injury cases.

The statement of the Rwandan police firmly states that those individuals behind the blast will be brought to book. Grenade attacks were common in the run up to the 2010 presidential elections. These blasts are the first we've heard of in eighteen months (the last being in July 2010, in western Rwanda, not in Kigali).

According to the BBC's report on the blasts, Rwandan security forces believe the Kivu-based FDLR rebel group is responsible for the attacks.

Yet, the evidence from the ground does not directly point to the FDLR as security forces claim. The target of vegetable sellers in Remera, on the opposite side of Kigali from the Presidential Palace, and the homes of senior members of the government in Kivoyu, does not match up. True, Remera is not far from the Ministry of Justice and the Parliament, but the target was ordinary Rwandans at they shopped for their evening's dinner on the way home from work, not government installations. Surely the FDLR leadership would target a more impactful location for the blasts if he had the intention of destabilising the government? As Kigaliwire reported, 'Nyabisindu [in Remera sector] is like many non-descript, dirt track areas of Kigali. The kind of place where local folk sell fruit and vegetables in front of shops and houses and workers sit outside for a Primus or a Fanta in the evening'.

If is is the FDLR, why did Rwandan security forces round up vegetable sellers and beat them for information on who planted the blasts. If the government knows it is FDLR, then why target sellers? Perhaps because it thinks that vegetable sellers in Remera are collaborating with the FDLR?

That makes little sense. If Rwanda is as peaceful and secure as the government claims, how could FDLR operatives make it all the way to Kigali, while winning over the hearts and minds of ordinary Rwandans selling their wares at market.

I don't know who is behind Tuesday's grenade attacks. I hope that a blind insistence on the culpability of the FDLR does not blind analysts and security forces to the possibility of other actors carrying out the deed. Whoever is behind the blasts, the effect at the local level is likely the same: striking fear into residents of Kigali.