KIGALI - A senior commander of the Forces of the Democratic Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) last month returned to Rwanda from the militants’ hideouts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after long illness.
Reliable sources say Colonel Denis Murego alias Mbuyi was handed to Rwanda Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission (RDRC) on July 25 July 2007. He is currently admitted at CHUK.
“Upon arrival, was immediately hospitalised at Gihundwe Hospital of Rusizi District in Western Province as his health was in bad condition. However, he was thereafter transferred to Kanombe Military Hospital (in Kigali) and later to CHUK,” RDRC officials said.
A source said: “Indeed, Col. Murego has been in critical health condition for sometime.”
Col. Murego was first treated at Chambua Hospital in Masisi, North Kivu, from where he was transferred to Bukavu Hospital on 9 July 2007, after his condition deteriorated.
FDLR, which is composed of mainly members of the defunct government forces and Interahamwe militias – groups that fled to the DRC after leading the 1994 Genocide which claimed an estimated one million ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Murego formerly served as FDLR G5, battalion commander, 3rd Brigade Commander and Commander of the Reserve Brigade under FDLR Headquarters in Masisi, North Kivu.
However, sources say, things have not been going well for the senior rebel officer either at a personal level or at organisational level.
Reliable sources say Col Murego’s wife died in DRC forests.
“The colonel himself was not spared as he continuously suffered from serious illnesses which most probably prompted him to request his repatriation in the hope of getting proper treatment once in Rwanda,” a source said.
However, a source added, doctors are not very optimistic about the Colonel’s recovery as his condition remains unstable. “They confided to us that the man’s survival is doubtable as he can hardly talk or walk and as such, his latest decision might have come a bit too late.”
Murego’s repatriation follows the surrendering of other senior FDLR officers including the rebels’ overall commander Maj. Gen. Paul Rwarakabije in November 2003 and several others officers.
Rwarakabije is currently a commissioner with RDRC in charge of particularly the Southern Province.
Among senior officers that are returned with Rwarakabije are Brig. Gen. Jerome Ngendahimana – who is currently vice president of the government commission investigating France’s role in the 1994 Genocide –Col. Evarsite Murenzi – currently deputy brigade commander of RDF 501 Brigade – and Col. Claudie Karegeya, who received no formal appointment.
These were followed by Maj. Bernardin Bizimungu alias Mahoro who returned in October 2005. Bizimungu is currently a demobilized soldier.
Rwarakabije confirmed the return of Murego adding that at the time of his repatriation, the Colonel was in critical condition.
“He had been sick for long but (FDLR) diehards could not release him to come home and access healthcare since they thought he was betraying them.
However, when his health continued to worsen, he was taken to Bukavu, where he stayed for some time until when Monuc and his two escorts decided to bring him back home,” Gen. Rwarakabije said.
He also said that Rwandan authorities also contributed to the Colonel’s repatriation, adding that they had contacted him urging him to abandon war and return home.
Asked whether he thought the Col. Murego would recover, Rwarakabije said: “I really don’t know because the last time I saw him he was in a very bad condition. It is a matter of doctors.”
The head of health services at the demobilisation commission, Dr Emmanuel Kagambira, said doctors were working around the clock to save the officer’s life.
“A team of highly qualified doctors has been attending to him at the Military Hospital, but the information I have is that he was transferred to CHUK (Kigali Central University Hospital),” said the medical doctor.
“Everything is being done to, if possible save his life,” said a senior official.
Military Spokesman Maj. Jill Rutaremara also confirmed that Col. Murego is now admitted at CHUK. “He came back sick and when he recovers, RDRC will process his reintegration requirements,” he said.
Col. Murego have been on a common list of most wanted FDLR/FOCA rebel leaders criminalized for acts of aggression and subversion against Rwanda and serious human rights violations against the Congolese population.
Besides his health problems, sources say Col. Murego’s life was also in danger back in DRC jungles with other top FDLR brass. He is said to have been in the same faction with Col. Emmanuel Kanyandekwe alias Mashya Komeza, who died in unclear circumstances in December 2006 in an FDLR stronghold in eastern DRC.
Kanyandekwe, who was FDLR/FOCA second in command is suspected to have been murdered by his arch political rival General Mudacumura, the rebels’ current overall commander.
Military sources say that in 2006, a similar fate befell Col. Protais Mpiranya who used to be the coordinator of FDLR activities in Zimbabwe and most recently to the organisation’s second in command in South Kivu, Col. Nsengamungu Bernardin, alias Bahati Jean. Mpiranya is wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which closes shop next year.
“I am informed that FDLR/FOCA is in a deep internal crisis leading to suspicious deaths of high-ranking officers and increasing defections of many commanders to either Rwanda or elsewhere,” a source said.
Following the return of Rwarakabije and group, more than 15 FDLR division, brigade and battalion commanders have reportedly defected, some to Rwanda, while others have allegedly joined other political organisations like RUD-Urunana.
The rebels have played a central role in destabilising the Great Lakes Region for over a decade now, with some of their cruelest atrocities committed against Congolese civilians.
Formerly, ALIR, they are also blamed for the murder of eight Western tourists in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest 1999 and over 150 Banyamurenge refugees in Burundi’s Gatumba camp in August 2004. They are also responsible for a wave of massacres against Rwandans during an insurgency between 1997 and 2000 in the former provinces of Ruhengeri, Gisenyi and Kibuye.
In the past few weeks, the rebels are believed to have carried out a deadly attack on Uganda’s Kanungu district in which three people including a university student died and another one on a Congolese village in which they set several houses ablaze before making off with loots including goats and agricultural produce. Kigali has continuously expressed concern over the negative force, saying it remains a major threat to the region which is struggling to recover from decades of deadly wars.
Rwanda has previously deployed troops twice in DRC to flush out the insurgents but made the final withdrew late 2002 under a regional peace deal on condition that Kinshasa and the international community disarm and help repatriate the militants. Five years on, the rebels remain active in eastern DRC though there have previously been attempts from Kinshasa to fight them with the help on Monuc.