Kigali — Protais Mpiranya, one of the most wanted genocide suspects is being hidden by the Zimbabwean Government, new reports from the Southern African country indicate.
Mpiranya, the former Commander of the Presidential Guard during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi is being pursued by Belgian authorities and is also on the list of 13 most wanted persons by the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
He also appears on the list of most wanted persons for genocide and war crimes, under the US Rewards for Justice Programme, with a $5m bounty.
Fresh reports by Belgian authorities indicate that Mpiranya is hiding in Zimbabwe, and is reportedly operating businesses in Harare, on top of acting as mercenary for the ruling party ZANU-PF to silence the opposition.
In an in an interview with The New Times, Rolland Amoussouga, the ICTR Spokesperson said that he could not reveal anything on the whereabouts of Mpiranya as investigations are still going on.
"I can't confirm that, usually when investigations are still going on, we can't reveal whether we know the whereabouts of the wanted person or not, in a bid not to interfere with the investigations."
However a close source in the Arusha-based tribunal said that the ICTR has been aware of Mpiranya's presence in Zimbabwe though there has been little or no effort to apprehend him.
According to reports in Zimbabwean papers, Mpiranya is being sheltered by close associates of President Robert Mugabe who were jointly running ventures, including a lucrative materials trade in the neighbouring, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
A report has also named Zimbabwean Defence Minister Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa as one of the close associates of Mpiranya.
Reports further indicate that there are an estimated 4,000 Rwandan refugees living in Zimbabwe, most of them suspected of taking part in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
According to the Zimbabwe Mail, many more are filtering into Zimbabwe through Malawi and that when they arrive, they are looked after by the government where some are recruited into doing mercenary work.
According to a Belgian official, Belgium is "fully aware of the involvement of Mpiranya in the murder of ten Belgian peacekeepers on 7
April 1994, and in the planning of the genocide".
According to the newspaper, sources in the Zimbabwean Intelligence Services say that the Rwandan fugitive led a group of foreign mercenaries joining so-called "war veterans" and militiamen attacking opposition supporters in rural parts of Zimbabwe, during the 2008 contested Presidential run-off elections.
Eyewitnesses said Mpiranya and his men were more vicious than their Zimbabwean counterparts, with the marauding gangs attacking suspected members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), forcing them to renounce the party.
It is believed that Mpiranya and his group dressed in army fatigues abducted and murdered MDC activist Mabvuku Tonderai Ndira whose body was found with his tongue cut into shreds.
200 MDC supporters were killed in attacks by police, army, war veterans and ruling party militia. More than 200,000 displaced by the violence during the March 2008 elections.
Mpiranya and other Rwandan refugees allegedly feared that they could be sent home if an MDC-led government came to power.
Meanwhile, another Genocide fugitive who was recently arrested in Malawi, Charles Bandora and released under unclear circumstances a few days later is said to have relocated to Zimbabwe.
According to Zimbabwe Mail, Bandora, an ex- senior official of the former ruling party MRND, was let off the hook two weeks ago and it is believed that his release was effected after officials in Zimbabwe approached Malawian authorities.
According to Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga, Rwanda has been aware of Mpriranya's presence in Zimbabwe for quite sometime but said that the obligation to arrest him lies with the ICTR.
"I am not sure whether he is in Zimbabwe today but we have said from time to time that this man has been seen in Zimbabwe, it is up to ICTR to find out whether it is true indeed and apprehend him, it is their obligation," Ngoga said.
He said that Zimbabwe as a matter of principle should be able to apprehend Mpiranya and hand him over to the ICTR as the International law states that any country that is hosting any indicted persons is obliged to apprehend them and had them over to the competent jurisdiction that indicted them.
Who is Mpiranya?
Protais Mpiranya was born in the prefecture of Gitarama currently Muhanga District in the Southern Province.
He was second-in-command of military operations and intelligence (S2 and S3) in the Presidential guard Battalion.
In 1993, he was appointed Commander of the Presidential Guard Battalion in the Rwandan Army. In this capacity he exercised authority over the units of this battalion.
Beginning in 1992, Mpiranya is alleged to have supervised the training of militiamen in the prefectures of Ruhengeri, Cyangugu, Gisenyi, Butare and Mutara, particularly in the military camps in Gabiro, Gako, Mukamira and Bigogwe. In 1993, Mpiranya is also reported to have sent his subordinates to supervise the training of the Interahamwe (an extremist Hutu militia)
He is said also to have distributed weapons to the militia and to certain carefully selected members of the civilian population with the intent to exterminate the Tutsi population.
It is said that on the morning of 7 April 1994, Mpiranya, a Major then, commanded a group of Presidential Guards which tracked down, arrested, sexually assaulted and assassinated former Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana.
He again conspired in the murder of the President of the Constitutional Court, Joseph Kavaruganda; the Chairman of the PSD party and Minister of Agriculture Frederic Nzamurambago; the Vice-Chairman of the PL party and Minister of Labour and Community Affairs, Landoald Ndasingwa; as well as a member of the Political Bureau of the MDR, the Minister of Information, Faustin Rucogoza.
He also ordered the Presidential Guards to kill 10 Belgian para-commandos from UNAMIR who were guarding the Prime Minister at Kigali military camp, leading to the withdrawal of the Belgian contingent on 13 April 1994 and to a drastic reduction of UNIMAR's civilian and military personnel.
As of 7 April 1994, killings of the civilian Tutsi population, preceded, on many occasions, by rape, sexual violence and other crimes of a sexual nature and the murder of numerous political opponents, were carried out by civilians and soldiers under orders from Mpiranya. Mpiranya fled to DRC as RPF advanced to Kigali.