Rwanda to hand over warlord Nkunda to DR Congo

Rwanda to hand over warlord Nkunda to DR Congo

RNW International Justice Thijs Bouwknegt

10-02-2009

Rwanda will hand over rebel leader Laurent Nkunda to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The Congolese warlord, who is being held under house arrest in Rwanda, will be transported to Kinshasa to be tried by a military tribunal in Congo's capital. However, no date for the handover or trial was set.

Congo accuses Nkunda of war crimes, including massacring civilians and plundering towns. Nkunda split from Congo's army in 2004, saying he was protecting Tutsi's from Rwanda Hutu rebels who control parts of the North and South Kivu provinces.

Congo requested Nkunda's extradition after the Tutsi general was captured last month during a joint Rwandan-Congolese military operation in the eastern DRC.
Exchange

Rwanda's decision to hand Nkunda over is the latest sign of improved relations between the two former enemies, who had been trading accusations of each trying to destabilize the other.

In return for Nkunda's arrest, Congo opened its doors to Rwanda's army, which sent about 4,000 troops last month. They are hunting down the Rwandan rebels, who are accused of spearheading the 1994 killings of 800,000 Rwandan Tutsi's and Hutu moderates.

Since January, many rebel bases were destroyed, some of the rebels were arrested, others killed and many have returned back to Rwanda together with their families.
Nkunda's alliance with Rwanda dates back to when he helped to end the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Kigali broke its relations with the warlord in December, after the UN had accused the Tutsi-led government to support Nkunda's infamous rebel group, the CNDP.

Atrocities
Although Nkunda fought in both the Rwandan and Congolese conflicts, he first came to widespread notice when he led the brutal repression of an attempted mutiny in Kisangani in 2002, where more than 160 persons were summarily executed.

Two years later, Nkunda's troops took control of Bukavu, claiming to stop the genocide of Congolese Tutsi's. During the campaign Nkunda's men allegedly went on a rampage, killing and raping civilians and looting their property.

Kinshasa issued an international arrest warrant for Nkunda in 2005. Since then he has remained at large even though provincial government authorities, the Congolese army and UN peacekeeping forces knew of his whereabouts. He often spoke to journalists