Rwanda-Congo border: Seigneur de la Guerre arrested "without a shot"
Pictured with his girlfriend at a military review of one of his child battalions.
NY Times reports the notorious warlord in Congo has been taken into Rwandan custody:
The surprise arrest could be a major turning point for Congo, which has been mired in rebellion and bloodshed for much of the past decade. It instantly strengthens the hand of the Congolese government, militarily and politically, right when the government seemed about to implode. But it could also empower other, even more brutal rebel figures like Jean Bosco Ntaganda, General Nkunda’s former chief of staff, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for war crimes.
Still, analysts and politicians say they hope that General Nkunda’s capture at the hands of Rwanda means that the proxy war between Rwanda and Congo is finally drawing to a close.
A United Nations report in December accused high-ranking Rwandan officials of sending money and troops to General Nkunda, a fellow Tutsi who claimed to be protecting Congolese Tutsi from marauding Hutu militias. This cross-border enmity has been widely blamed for much of the turmoil, destruction, killing and raping that has vexed Congo for years.
John Prendergast, a founder of the Washington-based Enough Project, which campaigns against genocide, called it a “massive turn of events. [...] Finally the two countries are cooperating,” he said.
Kikaya bin Karubi, a member of Congo’s Parliament, said General Nkunda’s arrest “could be the beginning of the end of all the misery. [...] Look what happened at Kiwanja,” he said, referring to a small Congolese town where United Nations officials said General Nkunda’s forces went door to door, summarily executing dozens of civilians in November.
Rwanda have him in their custody, he is their proxy agent in Congo that was as rogue as the other armed non-state combatant powers in the unstable corridor from Eastern Congo to Darfur.
Though General Nkunda never controlled more than a handful of small towns in eastern Congo, he was Congo’s No. 1 troublemaker. His troops have been accused of committing massacres dating back to 2002. General Nkunda recently began cultivating national ambitions to overthrow Congo’s weak but democratically elected government, which threatened to draw in Congo’s neighbors and plunge central Africa into a regional war, something that has happened twice before.
I think it was the current Congolese ruler, Kabila - and his father whom he succeeded - that swept to power in Kinshasa having raised an army against Mobutu in the Eastern Congo.
General Nkunda’s confidence may have been his undoing. On Thursday night, hundreds of Rwandan troops cornered him near Bunagana. Congolese officials said he refused to be arrested and crossed into Rwanda, where he was surrounded and taken into custody. It is not clear how many men he had with him at the time, but it appears he was taken without a shot.
Just a few days ago, Rwanda sent several thousand soldiers into Congo as part of a joint operation to flush out Hutu militants who had killed countless people in the 1994 Rwanda genocide and were still haunting the hills on Congo’s side of the border.
Few expected the Rwandan troops to go after General Nkunda. Not only is he a Tutsi, like Rwanda’s leaders, but he had risen to power by fighting these same Hutu militants. Several demobilized Rwandan soldiers recently revealed a secret operation to slip Rwandan soldiers into Congo to fight alongside General Nkunda. He had been trained by the Rwandan Army in the mid-1990s and was widely believed to be an agent for Rwanda’s extensive business and security interests in eastern Congo.
But it seems that the Rwandan government abruptly changed its tack, possibly because of the international criticism it has endured for its ties to General Nkunda. Several European countries recently cut aid to Rwanda, sending a strong signal to a poor country that needs outside help. Rwanda may have figured the time was ripe to remove General Nkunda, analysts said.
Earlier this month, some of General Nkunda’s top commanders split from him, saying they were fed up with his king-of-the-world brand of leadership.
That's what makes him Lord of the War. He's a psychotic war criminal.
One of those commanders was Mr. Ntaganda. Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court have accused him of building an army of child soldiers, a war crime.
But Mr. Ntaganda suddenly switched sides, denouncing General Nkunda and saying that he and his men were now eager to join the Congolese Army, which they had been battling for years. Many analysts believe that the Congolese government promised to try to protect Mr. Ntaganda from being sent to The Hague.
According to Jason Stearns, an analyst who recently served on a United Nations panel examining the conflict: “It’s fairly clear that Kigali and Kinshasa have struck a deal. Kinshasa will allow Rwanda onto Congolese soil to hunt down” the Hutu militants, “and in return Rwanda will dethrone Nkunda.”
What does "hunt them down" mean? Does that include civilians? We have a history, a recent one at that, of genocidal violence from the army, now we have a Tutsi government in Rwanda given a free-hand in Eastern Congo to eliminate the Hutu forces. It sounds like a breakthrough, this arrest, but what of the power vacuum it leaves? Will Rwandan forces occupy the areas of Congo that Nkunda controlled? Kinshasa certainly seems to have no effective control whatsoever over this region - a vast area it purports to govern.