Harare — After years of denial, the Zimbabwean government has finally admitted that one of the most wanted Genocide fugitives, Protais Mpiranya, could be hiding in the southern African country.
The Zimbabwean Police Commander for CID Homicide, Chief Superintendent Peter Magwenzi, on Monday, said Mpiranya was believed to be using various names that include Theophase Mahuku and James Kakule to evade arrest.
The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Boubakar Jallow, has repeatedly said that there were signs the former commander of the notorious ex-Rwandan Presidential Guard was in Zimbabwe.
Mpiranya is wanted on a warrant issued by the Tanzania-based UN tribunal, and is one of the subjects of the US Reward for Justice Program, with a US$5 million bounty on his head.
Mpiranya, a Major in the ex-Rwandan armed forces, commanded the Presidential Guard, a unit believed to have taken immediate charge, after the death of former President Juvenal Habyarimana on the night of April 6, 1994, and is blamed for the slaughter of top politicians as the Genocide against the Tutsi unfolded - subsequently claiming the lives of more than a million people.
Among the politicians that were killed was then Prime Minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana, and her security detail of 10 Belgian peacekeepers, a few hours after the downing of Habyarimana's plane blamed on extremist elements within his party and military.
The attack on the former premier's home is said to have been led by Mpiranya himself.
Jallow wrote to the UN Security Council last week saying there were difficulties in apprehending Mpiranya, calling upon Zimbabwe to prevent the Genocide fugitive from evading justice.
The prosecutor said they had requested for cooperation and assistance from Harare in bringing the top fugitive to justice.
Unconfirmed reports have previously indicated that Mpiranya was facing protection from some senior officials within Zimbabwe's ruling party, ZANU-FP.
The country has persistently distanced itself from claims of harbouring Mpiranya.
Zimbabwe's Immigration Principal Director, Clemence Masango, had earlier told the country's parliamentary committee for Defence and Home Affairs that, "Yes this has been topical in the local and international media. All efforts have been made to check on this allegation. We have no record within our systems of this person whether on a permit or refugee. The only refugee camp we have is Tongogara and everyone there is documented."
"Interpol has written to us and enquired officially through local police structures. Investigations have been carried out and this person (Mpiranya) has not been found and police are on record saying they have not been able to find that person in Zimbabwe but their investigations are still underway. That is what I can say on that."
Mpiranya is accused of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
He remains at large and is one of the most wanted men by the UN-backed tribunal.
Alongside powerful figures such as convicted génocidaire Theoneste Bagosora, Mpiranya is accused of participating in the planning, preparation and execution of a plan to exterminate the Tutsi in Rwanda.
With the ICTR currently in the process of winding up its business, at least nine fugitives, including Mpiranya, remain at large. Others include alleged financier of the Genocide, Felicien Kabuga, believed to be hiding in Kenya, former defence minister Augustine Bizimana, Fulgence Kayishema (his case was referred to Rwandan judiciary), Aloys Ndimbati, Ladislas Ntaganzwa, Charles Ryandikayo, Pheneas Munyarugarama and Charles Sikibwabo, whose file has also been referred to Rwanda for trial.
The trio, Mpiranya, Kabuga and Bizimana, are generally regarded as the 'big fish' by ICTR and several officials at the tribunal have stated their wish for the 17-year-old court to try these men before folding business.
As part of the completion mechanism of the tribunal, the International Residual Mechanism was instituted mid this year to take on any remaining cases until the end of 2014, when all activities are expected to be concluded.