The United States has welcomed the arrest by Angolan authorities of one of the alleged masterminds of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Augustin Bizimungu. The former Rwandan armed forces chief had earlier this year been made a key target of the U.S. government's Rewards for Justice program.
The State Department says it welcomes and applauds Angola's arrest of the former Rwandan general, and it is urging other countries in the region to follow the Luanda government's lead and assist in the apprehension of the Rwandan genocide suspects still at large.
Angolan authorities announced Monday that they had identified Mr. Bizimungu at one of the demobilization camps for UNITA guerrillas. They said the international arrest warrant pending against him will be carried out and that he will be handed over to the U.N.'s criminal tribunal for Rwanda.
At a news briefing here, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said the arrest was the result of close collaboration and information-sharing among Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United States and the U.N. tribunal. He appealed for similar cooperation in the pursuit of others under indictment. "We urge all states in the region to follow the example of Angola and apprehend all persons indicted by the tribunal who may be on their territory," he said. "Only through arrest of persons indicted by the tribunal, as well as the disarmament, demobilization and repatriation of other combatants will peace and stability return to the region."
Mr. Bizimungu, charged with genocide and crimes against humanity as an alleged ringleader of the 1994 bloodbath in Rwanda, was thought to have been hiding in the Congo.
He was among nine indicted persons featured in a U.S. publicity campaign launched in June under the State Department's rewards program, which offered up to $5 million for information leading to their arrests.
Citing confidentiality rules, spokesman Reeker declined to say if a tip provided to the U.S. government had been a factor in the Bizimungu arrest.
But he said it is clear the rewards campaign contributed to "raising awareness" of the need to apprehend him and send him to the tribunal, based in the Tanzanian city of Arusha.
An estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate ethnic Hutus were killed in Rwanda in three months of bloodletting carried out by government security forces and extremist Hutu militiamen.
Among those still being sought in the 1994 violence is the featured suspect in the U.S. rewards campaign, businessman Felicien Kabuga, who is accused of being the main financier of the militiamen and of local radio broadcasts that incited the killing spree.