Army for the Liberation of Rwanda

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Army for the Liberation of Rwanda
Armée pour la Libération du Rwanda
Participant in the First Congo War & the Second Congo War
Flag of Rwanda (1962–2001).svg
Active 1997 – 30 September 2000
Ideology Hutu Power
Leaders Paul Rwarakabije
Area of operations DRC-Rwandan border
Size 12,000 - 22,000 in the DRC
Originated as Members of the Interahamwe and the Rwandan Armed Forces
Became Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda
Hutu militants
Rwandan genocide (1994)
Rwandan Armed Forces
Refugee crisis
RDR (1995–1996)
1st and 2nd Congo War
ALiR (1996–2001)
FDLR (2000–present)

The Army for the Liberation of Rwanda (French: Armée pour la Libération du Rwanda, ALiR) was a rebel group largely composed of members of the Interahamwe and Armed Forces of Rwanda that carried out the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Operating mostly in the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo along the border with Rwanda, it carried out attacks throughout the Second Congo War against forces aligned with Rwanda and Uganda. In 2000, the ALiR agreed to merge with the Hutu resistance movement based in Kinshasa into the new Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). ALiR was largely supplanted by the FDLR by 2001.


The killing during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide was largely carried out by the national army, the Armed Forces of Rwanda (FAR) and the paramilitary Interahamwe. Following the invasion of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) led by Paul Kagame, many FAR and Interahamwe fled across the border into Zaire. During the resulting Great Lakes refugee crisis, these two groups combined into the Army for the Liberation of Rwanda (ALIR). The increased intensity of cross-border attacks by the ALIR led the Rwandan government to secretly arm the ethnically Tutsi Banyamulenge and organize the creation of a proxy rebel group, the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (AFDL), led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila. The AFDL invaded Zaire in late 1996 in what became known as the First Congo War. The AFDL and their Rwandan and Ugandan allies forced the refugees back into Rwanda and scattering the RDR fighters to countries such as Zambia, Angola, Congo-Brazzaville, the Central African Republic, Chad, Sudan, Burundi and Tanzania. The AFDL continued on to Kinshasa, overthrowing Mobutu Sese Seko and installing Kabila as president on 17 May 1997. Kabila then announced that the name of the country was being changed from Zaire to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

While Kabila was completing his rebellion, the ALIR remnants reformed and recruited new Hutu fighters from eastern Zaire. Army for the Liberation of Rwanda become active in eastern Zaire by early 1997. The ALiR's political wing, the Party for the Liberation of Rwanda (PALIR), maintained the old goal of overthrowing the Kagame government and regaining power, to which it added the objective of expelling the foreign invaders, thereby giving it more appeal to local populations. There were also concerns that it intended to continue the genocide against the Tutsis. Even before regaining a military presence, a letter allegedly sent by the ALiR threatened to kill the American ambassador to Rwanda and other U.S. citizens in retaliation for support to Rwanda.

By July 1998, the alliance between Kabila and his Rwandan and Ugandan sponsors had broken down. Kabila ordered the foreign forces out of the country, prompting Rwanda and Uganda to create another rebel group, the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD), to overthrow Kabila in the Second Congo War. Kabila then began to provide military support to ALiR, many members of which he had tried to kill less than two years previously, in order to weaken the RCD and foreign military forces in eastern Congo.

As the war grew into the most deadly conflict since the Second World War, several thousand ALiR fought carried out guerrilla attacks behind the front lines. In 1999, eight tourists from the U.S., United Kingdom and New Zealand and a Ugandan game warden were killed while in Uganda's Bwindi National Park, along the border with the DRC. The tourists were tracking rare mountain gorillas and were apparently targeted as English language speakers. One captured French diplomat was released with a message condemning the U.S. and UK for their support of Rwanda. The act of violence largely destroyed Uganda's tourist industry for years.

For the next several years, the battle lines stabilized and the war stagnated at Uganda and Rwanda competed to extract resources from the rich mines and forests of eastern Congo that they occupied. The ALiR continued to carry out attacks upon both opposing armed groups, as well as civilian populations that they thought supported their enemies. Following Kabila's assassination on 18 January 2001 and the rise of his son Joseph, the ALiR consolidated forces with a Kinshasa-based Hutu group to form the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). While never officially disbanded, ALiR lost its separate identity under the FDLR. Despite official declarations from the FDLR that they have given up armed resistance, groups descended from ALiR continue to fight in eastern Congo.

Further reading

  • Gérard Prunier, From Genocide to Continental War: The "Congolese" Conflict and the Crisis of Contemporary Africa, C. Hurst & Co, 2009, ISBN 1-85065-523-5
  • United Nations, S/2002/341, 5 April 2002

External links

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