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Hutu Rebel Commander Surrenders, Returns to Rwanda - 2004-04-12

Following Rwanda's 10th anniversary of its genocide of ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus, a top Hutu rebel commander has surrendered after 10 years in hiding, mostly, in the dense hilly forests of eastern Congo.

A top Hutu rebel commander fighting the Rwandan government from jungle bases in the Democratic Republic of Congo has surrendered and returned home, the Rwandan army said on Sunday. Evariste Murenzi, deputy commander in the operational wing of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, crossed into Rwanda from the eastern Congolese town of Goma.

Mr. Murenzi belonged to the Army for Liberation of Rwanda rebel group, made up of remnant Hutu militia forces implicated in the Rwandan genocide a decade ago. An estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died in the massacre. The fractious Liberation movement later renamed itself as the FDLR.

Senior Rwandan officers said his surrender represented a major blow to the Hutu extremist movement in eastern Congo. The leader of FDLR, Paul Rwarakabije, returned to Rwanda last November. Rwandan officials say there are still 20,000 FDLR troops at large in eastern Congo, despite the capitulation of Mr. Rwarakabije.

Both Mr. Murenzi and Mr. Rrwarakabije are known moderates and are not accused by the Rwandan government of taking part in the 1994 genocide.

Analysts say they do not expect wholesale Hutu repatriations, mainly because of the continuing frosty relations between them and Rwanda's Tutsi-dominated government. FDLR officers have been blocking deserters from surrendering and leaving the dense forests in eastern Congo, according to U.N. reports.

The former Congolese government used FDLR troops to help ward off Rwandan-backed rebels. Rwandan troops invaded Congo's mineral rich eastern territories on the pretext of chasing down Hutu extremists. The troops officially pulled out of Congo in September 2002.