photo courtesy of NY Times.
General Laurent Nkunka, widely believed to be financed by Rwanda’s extensive business interests in eastern Congo, was captured late Thursday night by Rwandan forces as he tried to flee across the Congolese border.
General Nkunda's capture is a huge step toward peace in DR Congo. Although small, his Tutsi army has terrorized northeast Congo since 2002, leaving brutal rape, senseless murder, and hundreds of thousands of refugess in its wake.
A UN report issued in December, 2008, accused high ranking officials in the Rwandan government of sending money and troops to support his reign of terror. After that report was released, several European nations withdrew financial support to Rwanda, prompting Nkunda's capture and the neutralization of his army. Money talks.
This is an excellent article that explains the complexity of war in DRC and why the atrocities still continue to happen there today. For this reason, I have included it in its entirety.
New York Times article
Published: January 23, 2009
A Congolese Rebel Leader Who Once Seemed Untouchable Is Caught
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
KIGALI, Rwanda — Overnight, the battle in Congo has suddenly shifted.
Gen. Laurent Nkunda, the Congolese rebel leader whose brutal tactics and Congo-size ambitions have threatened to bring about another catastrophic war in central Africa, was arrested late Thursday, removing an explosive factor from the regional equation.
According to United Nations officials and Rwandan authorities, General Nkunda was captured by Rwandan troops as he tried to escape a Congolese-Rwandan offensive that has taken aim at several rebel groups terrorizing eastern Congo.
General Nkunda had seemed untouchable, commanding a hardened rebel force that routinely humiliated Congolese troops and then calmly gliding through muddy villages in impossibly white robes. But he may never have anticipated that his old ally, the Rwandan Army, would take him away.
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.
Now, if Congo gets its way, General Nkunda will have to face the consequences. The government is urging Rwanda to extradite General Nkunda so he can stand trial in Kinshasa, Congo’s capital, where he could face a war crimes tribunal and treason charges, punishable by death.
But Rwandan authorities were tight-lipped on Friday about what they would do with General Nkunda. “I can’t speculate,” said Maj. Jill Rutaremara, a spokesman for Rwanda’s Defense Forces. All he would say was that General Nkunda was “in the hands of Rwandan authorities.”
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.
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. 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.”
Congolese officials are now talking about restoring full diplomatic relations with Rwanda, which had been suspended for years, and reinvigorating economic ties. But many uncertainties remain, including a possible power scramble by other militant groups hoping to fill the vacuum.
“Nkunda’s arrest is part of a larger, radical realignment,” Mr. Stearns said. “There are, however, many unknowns and risks.”
Josh Kron contributed reporting.
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