Conflict resolution through defection programming: the case of Rwanda and the Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda / Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
Rwanda’s combatting of the Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda or Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the ideological, and one-time terrorist group designee, non-state, armed group on its eastern border, through defection programming, has proven to be an effective strategy for weakening the armed group. This is consistent with research that has found that the strength of the rebel personnel, or the human-feasibility factor of conflict, is a critical determinant of non-state, armed-group success (Aronson et al. 2015; Collier 2000a; Gates 2002). However, little research exists on addressing non-state armed-group personnel as a means of resolving conflict. Although the approach of the Rwanda Demobilization and Reintegration Commission (RDRC) to encourage the defection of combatants has been successful, discussion with those who defected suggests that more needs to be done to encourage both more defections and prevent new recruitment to further weaken non-state, armed groups—thus addressing the supply and the demand aspects of a group’s personnel. Moreover, whereas Rwanda is a unique country – suffering a massive genocide in which almost one tenth of its population was killed in 1994 to achieving significant levels of peace and development, today – lessons from this case indeed may be valuable for other countries confronting various non-state insurgencies. At a minimum, this case proves that additional research on large-scale defection programming and prevention of recruitment into non-state armed groups – as a strategy to weaken them and force their leaders to the negotiating table – has merit. If personnel can be encouraged to defect and prevented from recruitment, the rebel-group feasibility becomes significantly diminished and the likelihood of its leaders to be encouraged to negotiate increases. Furthermore, enhanced defection and recruitment prevention programming would be a valuable contribution to the current toolbox that conflict-resolution practitioners and policy makers utilize to seek an end to conflict.