Rwanda arrests Congo rebel leader Nkunda

Human rights groups accuse Gen. Laurent Nkunda of involvement in several massacres in Democratic Republic of Congo.

Karel Prinsloo/AP/File
Rwanda arrested Democratic Republic of Congo rebel leader Laurent Nkunda Thursday after forces from both countries chased him into Rwanda. General Nkunda’s rebel faction has been accused of war crimes, and he has been wanted in Congo since 2005.

Rwandan and Democratic Republic of Congo officials announced Friday the arrest of Gen. Laurent Nkunda, a Congolese Tutsi rebel leader wanted for war crimes in Congo (formerly Zaire).

Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that General Nkunda was captured in Rwanda Thursday after being chased across the Congo-Rwanda border by joint forces from both countries.

Congo issued an arrest warrant for Nkunda in 2005 for war crimes committed by the rebel faction he led, the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP). Nkunda and the CNDP sought to overthrow the Congolese government, led by Joseph Kabila, and claim to be protecting the Tutsi people of eastern Congo from Hutu militias that fled Rwanda.

The BBC writes that Nkunda's arrest is a "startling about-turn by Rwanda, which had been accused of backing Gen Nkunda."

Nkunda's position was complicated by the departure of Bosco Ntaganda, Nkunda's former chief of staff, reports the Associated Press. Mr. Ntaganda formed a splinter movement of the CNDP and announced last week that his new group would cooperate with the Congolese army in hunting Hutu rebels, with the goal of eventually integrating into Congo's military.

The Times (London) adds that his arrest may also be due to his allies' irritation with "his erratic, narcissistic style – promising one thing in media interviews before contradicting himself days later."

Experts note that Nkunda's captures doesn't mean that the conflict in Congo will end soon, writes Bloomberg.

It may mean that Nkunda will be brought to justice for war crimes, though. The International Herald Tribune reports that human right groups say Nkunda was involved in mass killings while part of a different rebel faction in 2002. They also say that the CNDP has carried out several massacres since Nkunda founded the group. As a result, Reuters writes, human rights groups "said they would be watching how Rwanda and Congo dealt with Nkunda."

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