Who is Ignace Murwanashyaka?

Ignace Murwanashyaka, the leader of the Rwanda Hutu rebels, was arrested Tuesday in Germany. He was charged with crimes against humanity in Congo.

By , Staff writer

Ignace Murwanashyaka was arrested Tuesday, Nov. 17 in Karlsruhe, Germany. He was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Eastern Congo, German prosecutors said.

Murwanashyaka is the 46-year-old self-proclaimed president of the Rwandan Hutu rebel movement, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (known by its French acronym, the FDLR). The FDLR are made up of former Rwandan army members and members of the radical militia Interahamwe, who are blamed for the 1994 Rwandan genocide, which killed 800,000 Rwandans, most of them members of the Tutsi minority.

Before 2005, Murwanashyaka traveled between Germany – where he had residence with his German wife – and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) city of Lubumbashi, where he served as president of the newly formed FDLR. Travel bans placed on him by the United Nations, for violating arms embargoes into the DRC, prevented Murwanashyaka from traveling back to Germany, although he did manage to return to Germany in 2006 with the help of a newly acquired Ugandan passport.

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Rwanda and the United Nations have put pressure on Germany to arrest and extradite Murwanashyaka for years, because of the FDLR’s violent control of vast areas of the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo, especially in North and South Kivu. German authorities have resisted extraditing Murwanashyaka to Rwanda, arguing that he wouldn’t receive a fair trial. German officials didn’t want to try him in Germany, because there was little evidence linking the FDLR leader to the Rwandan genocide. Murwanashyaka became the FDLR leader in 2001. The Rwandan genocide took place in 1994.

German prosecutors arrested Murwanashyaka Tuesday for crimes allegedly committed between January 2008 and July 2009. “The accused are strongly suspected, as members of the foreign terrorist organization FDLR, of committing crimes against humanity and war crimes,” said German federal prosecutors in a statement.

Human rights activists say the FDLR has carried out a deliberate campaign of terror against Congolese citizens, as a result of a major military operation begun in January to dislodge them from the DRC.

FDLR soldiers – estimated to number around 5,000 at the start of 2009 – have long controlled lucrative mines for tin and coltan, the metal used for cell phones and computer motherboards.

Could Murwanashyaka's arrest bring an end to the Congo conflict? Click here for a fuller story.

Or check out: Legacy of Rwanda's genocide: more assertive international justice

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