23 January 2009

Central Africa: Rwanda Arrests DRC Rebel Nkunda

Congolese rebel leader Laurent Nkunda was arrested in Rwanda late Thursday night, Rwandan and Congolese authorities announced on Friday.

Radio Okapi, the Congolese radio station operated by the United Nations and the Fondation Hirondelle, reported that Rwandan and Congolese military leaders had disclosed the news. In the same announcement, they called on Nkunda's followers to join the process under way to integrate former rebels into the Congolese army, FARDC.

Reuters news agency reported Friday that the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) information minister, Lambert Mende, said his government would apply for Nkunda to be extradited: "There is a Congolese arrest warrant against him," he told Reuters. "He committed his crimes in Congo. So it is normal that he would be judged in Congo."

In the past, Rwanda and the DRC have accused one another of supporting one another's rebels: Rwanda has said the DRC gave refuge to Hutu militia responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and the DRC has said Rwanda has backed Nkunda, who has justified his rebellion on the grounds that he is protecting Tutsis in the DRC from the Hutu rebels.

However, in recent weeks many of Nkunda's lieutenants have turned against him, and in recent days government forces from the DRC and Rwanda have set aside their past differences to conduct a joint operation, primarily against against the Hutu militia.

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