DRC Forces Capture Major Rwandan Genocide Suspect

Congolese forces have arrested one of the major remaining suspects for crimes committed during the Rwandan genocide.  The indicted former mayor of a Rwandan town will be put on trial at the special tribunal for genocide suspects in Tanzania.

Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende confirms the Congolese army has captured fugitive Gregoire Ndahimana in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. 

"Yes, Gregoire Ndahimana was arrested by our troops in North Kivu within a group of FDLR who were fighting against our troops there," Mende said.

The wanted suspect was hiding within the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, known as FDLR.  The DRC and Rwanda have been engaged in joint military operations this year against the FDLR, which is largely comprised of ethnic Hutus responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Ndahimana was caught as he was looking for food among the local population.  He will be tried in Arusha, Tanzania, at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

The court has indicted Ndahimana for genocide, or complicity in genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, and crimes against humanity.  He is accused of conspiring with a church priest and the local ethnic militia to exterminate his town's minority Tutsi population.

Nearly all of the 6,000 Tutsis living in the former mayor's town are thought to have been killed during the outbreak of ethnic violence.  More than 2,000 died when the church in which they were seeking refuge was bulldozed, allegedly upon the local priest's request.

The court indictment details the suspect's alleged pre-violence meetings with the priest and others to plan the massacre.

The indictment says local authorities first launched attacks against the Tutsi to drive them from their homes to the church.  The authorities then weakened the refugees through poor sanitation conditions and continual attacks against the church until they leveled the building.

The indictment alleges that after the destruction of the church and the death of those inside, the suspect enjoyed a beer with the priest and other authorities to celebrate.  
Twelve indictees of the special tribunal remain at-large.

The president of Rwanda's main association of genocide victims has called for the DRC to step up efforts to capture the remaining fugitives, many of whom are still in eastern Congo and whose whereabouts he says the Congolese government has known for a long time.

Congo spokesman Mende admits other genocide suspects are in Congo among the FDLR, and expressed hope that with the new military offensive against the group, others too would be caught and sent to the court in Tanzania for trial.

"We hope that those genocidaires that are hiding among them [the FDLR] will be caught, but we can not locate them as by now because they are hiding and they are moving here and there," Mende said.

Reelations between Congo and Rwanda have markedly improved in the past year.  The two are now working together to help root out the FDLR and have formally re-established diplomatic ties for the first time in more than a decade.

The FDLR forces operating in eastern Congo have been a thorn in the side of Rwanda and DRC relations for years.  After the genocide, Rwanda launched military operations into DRC territory to go after genocide suspects who fled there.

Congolese President Joseph Kabila and Rwandan President Paul Kagame met on the border last week to signal the two countries' improving relations.

More than 800,000 Rwandans died in 1994 during just three months of violence. 

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