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In Rwanda, a rebel commander's case that no one wants to try

Two years after Rwanda arrested Congolese rebel commander Gen. Nkunda, it still doesn't know what to do with him – he knows too many secrets that could come out if he is tried.

By Laura SeayGuest blogger / February 14, 2011

In this Nov. 6, 2008 file photo, Congo rebel leader Laurent Nkunda stands at his base in Tebero in eastern Congo. In a startling turn against its former ally, Rwanda arrested Nkunda on Jan. 23, 2009, a Congolese military spokesman said, just days after Nkunda's chief of staff broke away to form a splinter movement.

Karel Prinsloo/AP

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I've been a bit incommunicado of late. Sorry about that, there are lots of looming deadlines in my future and preparing to be out of town on a tour du monde for an entire month is consuming most of my blogging time. Speaking of, if you're up for hanging out in Shanghai, Chengdu, Nanjing, Montreal, Miami, D.C., or Chicago in March, let me know. I'll be giving public talks in Nanjing and Montreal and presenting at conferences in Montreal, Miami, and Chicago and would love to connect.

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Anyway, my inbox is alarmingly empty of hate mail, so let's talk Great Lakes politics for a bit. In late January, we passed the two-year anniversary of renegade Congolese general Laurent Nkunda's arrest by the Rwandan government. Nkunda has been held under house arrest just outside Kigali since that time without charge or trial. As Rwandan Minister of Justice Tharcisse Karugarama told Kenya's Daily Nation, Nkunda's case isn't easy. Trying a case you don't want to try never is.

The main impediments to trying Nkunda have to do with issues over extradition to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including the fear that the DRC's amnesty law will allow Nkunda to walk free and the fact that Rwandan law prohibits extradition to states that use the death penalty, which the DRC does. Of course, the real place Nkunda should be tried is the ICC, and don't think for a minute that it wouldn't be possible for Rwanda to arrange a transfer of Nkunda directly into MONUSCO's hands, where he could be transferred to ICC custody with little fuss, thus avoiding the Congolese courts entirely. But that would mean a full trial of Nkunda in the public eye, which no one in Rwanda wants, because, as we've discussed before, Nkunda knows everybody's secrets and would have little to lose by exposing them.

Meanwhile, back in Goma, Nkunda's one-time-number-two/current leader of the CNDP/possible leader in the FARDC (depending on whom you ask) Bosco Ntaganda has been involved in some shenanigans of his own of late, most recently involving a Nigerian plane that arrived in Goma carrying several million dollars in cold hard cash, apparently to buy gold. From Ntaganda. You can't make this stuff up, although, as Jason notes, one has to wonder about the type of shady characters who think Goma is the place to buy gold. Everybody knows the gold goes through Butembo, Bunia, and Bukavu. Duh.

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