Congo Arrests Rwandan Former Mayor Wanted For Genocide

rwanda mayorDemocratic Republic of Congo has arrested a former Rwandan mayor accused of orchestrating the killing of tens of thousands of people during the 1994 genocide, Rwanda’s prosecutor general said on Thursday.

Ladislas Ntaganzwa, who headed the commune of Nyakizu in southern Rwanda, was indicted in 1996 and is accused of genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide as well as extermination, murder and rape, Prosecutor General Richard Muhumuza said in a statement.

“The National Public Prosecution Authority is pleased to announce the recent arrest of Ladislas Ntaganzwa, one of the last fugitive suspects sought by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda,” Muhumuza said.

The tribunal’s indictment, updated in 2012, accuses Ntaganzwa of plotting to exterminate Rwanda’s Tutsi population and personally ordering the massacre of more than 20,0000 Tutsi civilians in one parish in April 1994.

The United States has offered up to $5 million for information leading to his arrest.

Ntaganzwa was arrested on Sunday in the town of Nyanzale in North Kivu province during an operation against the headquarters of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Rwandan Hutu militia, said Congo’s army spokesman, Leon Kasonga.

The FDLR is based in eastern Congo. Its leaders include senior figures in the genocide who fled into Congo after overseeing the slaughter of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda between April and July 1994.

Ntaganzwa is not a member of the FDLR, the group’s spokesman, La Forge Fils Bazeye, told Reuters.

In a statement on Thursday, the U.N. Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals urged Congo to immediately transfer Ntaganzwa to Rwanda for trial.

Muhumuza said in his statement that Rwanda was prepared to prosecute Ntaganzwa before a specialised international crimes chamber of its High Court.

The Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has convicted 61 people for involvement in the genocide, including leading military and government officials. New cases are expected to be heard by Rwandan courts or a separate tribunal backed by the United Nations.

Kasonga said Ntaganzwa is being held in the eastern city of Goma and would soon be transferred to the capital Kinshasa before any decision was made about extradition.

More than 20 years after the genocide, Rwanda is still pursuing perpetrators at home and internationally.

Ntaganzwa is one of nine high-profile fugitives identified by the tribunal.

 

Decades After Genocide, Congo Struggles To Dislodge Rwanda Rebels

An FDLR soldier walks toward a distribution center near Lushubere Camp in Masisi in the DRCTwenty years after the genocide in Rwanda, a rebel group founded by ethnic extremists who took part in that slaughter still prowls the lush hills of neighboring eastern Congo, defying a renewed threat by the army and U.N. peacekeepers to dislodge it.

The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) sits at the heart of two decades of war and instability in Democratic Republic of Congo, in which millions of people have died from violence, hunger and disease.

Founded by members of the Interahamwe Hutu militia that organized the slaughter of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda in 1994, the FDLR’s ranks have dwindled over the last decade to less than 2,000 rag-tag fighters. But its presence in eastern Congo remains an irritant to Rwanda’s Tutsi leadership, which has held power since the genocide, and has prompted years of meddling by Kigali in its larger neighbor, fuelling instability and bloodshed.

Experts say removing the FDLR is essential for peace in the Great Lakes region.

Now Congo’s army, supported by a tough new U.N. Intervention Brigade and emboldened by its defeat of a rival Tutsi-led rebellion, has pledged to finally eradicate the Hutu group.

Backed by artillery from the U.N. brigade, the army in February started pounding positions held by the FDLR on the roads climbing into the steep hills of Congo’s North Kivu province, driving the militia from roadblocks used to extort money from locals.

When the guns fell silent, it became clear the rebels had not gone far from the main town of Tongo, retreating less than five km (three miles) from army lines. Unconcerned by the army’s efforts, FDLR troops in camouflage uniforms lounged near clearings where their wives tended plots of coffee and beans.

“There’s nothing to fear here,” said Bosco, commander of the group of fighters, using the Kinyarwanda language of Rwanda. One of his fighters, too young to have held a gun when the 1994 genocide took place, agreed: “Whatever happens, we will stay.”

The stuttering campaign against the FDLR underscores how complex a task it will be to defeat it. Speaking the same language as villagers, inter-married with them and forming part of the local economy, FDLR fighters have woven themselves into the fabric of life in Eastern Congo and use the population as its human shield.

“The challenge is to isolate these people and allow the Congolese army to continue its operations,” said Brigadier-General Anil Kumar Samantara, commander of U.N. operations in North Kivu.