Leader of Rwanda militia arrested in Germany

Ignace Murwanashyaka and Straton Musoni, the leader and deputy leader respectively of the Hutu militia known as “Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda” (FDLR), were arrested in Germany on Tuesday on suspicion of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed this year and in 2008 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, prosecutors said. The Hutu militias are believed to have killed several hundred civilians, raped numerous women, plundered and burned countless villages, forcing villagers from their homes and recruiting numerous children as soldiers. Following the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which killed 800,000 people, most of them members of the Tutsi minority, various Hutu militias responsible for the atrocities fled to Congo and organized as “Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda” (FDLR). Ignace Murwanashyaka, who was not involved in the Rwandan genocide, had come to Germany in 1989 where he studied at the university of Bonn and got married after receiving his doctorate. He became the leader of the FDLR in 2001 and allegedly orchestrated a series of unbelievably atrocious acts of murder, massacres, rapes and kidnappings from afar — traveling between his home in Mannheim and Congo in order to encourage his soldiers, to deliver his commands and to organize his forces. When Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame visited Germany in 2008, he strongly demanded that the German government take steps to prosecute Murwanashyaka. With additional pressure from the United Nations, the German authorities have finally reacted and have taken Murwanashyaka and his aide Musoni into custody. Well, that’s a step in the right direction — isn’t it. Unfortunately, it addresses only half of the problem that turns the lives of Congolese civilians into a living hell. Unfortunately, the other half of the problem — which the news reports about Murwanashyaka’s arrest don’t mention — is the Congolese army. According to Human Rights Watch, “Congolese armed forces in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have brutally killed hundreds of civilians and committed widespread rape in the past three months in a military operation backed by the United Nations”. A UN peacekeeping mission operating in DR Congo since 1999, MONUC (Mission of the United Nations Organisation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) partners with the Congolese army in order to disarm by force the FDLR. Also, it provides substantial operational and logistics support to the soldiers, including military firepower, transport, rations, and fuel. However, the army causes as much suffering and destruction as the rebels. In retaliation to brutal attacks by the FDLR, Congolese government soldiers are committing gross human rights violations. Attempting to kill rebel combatants, they make no distinction between members of militia groups and civilians. “Some Congolese army soldiers are committing war crimes by viciously targeting the very people they should be protecting,… the UN should be asking hard questions about the role of its peacekeepers in supporting such abusive operations,” said a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, Anneke Van Woudenberg. Most of the victims were women, children, and the elderly. It surpasses one’s wildest imagination what those poor people have to suffer, being viciously abused by and in the middle of two opposing factions. Murwanashyaka’s arrest will hopefully weaken the FDLR militias, but the individuals responsible for Congolese army abuses should also be investigated, and certainly shouldn’t be supported in any way whatsoever by the UN — an organization which can ill afford to lose its credibility.

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