Tutsi commander faces war crimes trial

The renegade general Laurent Nkunda whose forces sparked an international crisis late last year in Eastern Congo was last night facing extradition to Congo and a possible war crimes trial.

In a startling reversal of fortune, the feared Tutsi rebel commander was arrested in Rwanda by forces who until last week were thought to be his main allies in the region. He was detained after his Tutsi CNDP rebels resisted a joint offensive by Rwandan and Congolese forces on Thursday night and the general allegedly fled across the border.

His arrest was confirmed yesterday by UN officials, and through a statement by the Congolese and Rwandan armies.

Gen. Nkunda has suddenly found himself on the wrong side of a fundamental shift in the relations between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. The long-time enemies struck a deal last week – the precise terms of which are unknown even to the UN – which cleared the way for 4,000 Rwandan troops to enter the DRC. Their stated aim was to hunt down the remnants of the Hutu genocidaire, thought to number 6,000 fighters. But their troops have moved instead against Gen. Nkunda's fellow Tutsis, the CNDP.

The news of his capture was greeted with joy in Kinshasa and Goma where there had been the first signs of dissent over the deal to allow foreign troops into the DRC.

A spokesman for Congolese president Joseph Kabila said the government would seek Gen. Nkunda's extradition to face charges of treason and crimes against humanity.

The turnaround has taken Nkunda loyalists by complete surprise and officials at CNDP headquarters in Eastern Congo, contacted by satellite phone, initially denied he had been captured.

“The media is making this up,” said CNDP spokesman Capt. Ngenzi. “The general has not been captured.”

Within hours the general's senior aide, Bertrand Bisimwa confirmed the general had been arrested.

Only two months ago the former psychology student had been the lord of a vast new realm carved out by his forces in North Kivu. A lightning offensive by the CNDP in late October had routed government forces and taken Gen Nkunda's fighters to the outskirts of Goma – the regional capital, UN headquarters, and centre of international aid operations. A quarter of a million people were displaced in the advance, sparking a humanitarian crisis and focusing international attention on Eastern Congo. The rebel commander then appears to have overreached by abandoning his aim to defend ethnic Tutsis and threatening to advance all the way to Kinshasa and install a new “better” government.

In an interview with The Independent on 22 November at a political rally in the capital of his new domain, Rutshuru, the general hinted that he might one day become president of the DRC.

However, international pressure on Rwanda – whom the UN has accused of backing Gen. Nkunda with weapons and money – appears to have pushed Kigali into changing course. The impoverished mountain nation is dependent on international aid, with the UK its largest single donor.

Meanwhile, the democratically Kabila government in Kinshasa, beset by more than a dozen rebel armies operating in its vast interior has also changed tack. The DRC has given a green light to regional governments to enter its territory and hunt down rebel groups. In quick succession Southern Sudan and Uganda have crossed the border to attack the brutal Lords Resistance Army in northern Congo and now Rwandan forces have moved against the CNDP and Hutu militias, known as the FDLR, in the east.

"It's pretty obvious by now that this is part of the deal between Kigali and Kinshasa to tackle both the FDLR and CNDP at the same time," said independent Congo analyst Jason Stearns.

The development marks a particular betrayal for Gen. Nkunda himself. A Congolese Tutsi from Rutshuru he fled to Uganda in 1990s where he joined the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front which in 1994 invaded Rwanda to end the genocide there. He continued to serve in a Rwandan-backed militia during the 1998-2003 Congo war, afterwards taking a post with the Congolese national army. A year later he quit the army to launch the CNDP rebellion, claiming that Tutsis needed protection from Hutu remnants now calling themselves the FDLR.

Last night crowds had gathered in Goma at the border crossing into Rwanda after rumours that Gen Nkunda was to be handed over.

A tall, thin man who is never seen without a black cane topped with a silver eagle, the general was reportedly left with only three loyal battalions when he was captured in Rwanda after losing support in the CNDP. However, loyalists claim that he had not fled across the border but had instead been lured “for consultations” with his erstwhile allies and fellow Tutsis. The two countries have no extradition treaty but analysts predicted that a US drafted agreement would quickly be concluded to facilitate a handover of the general.





Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all