Does Malawi's new leadership spell doom for Rwandan Genocide fugitives?

Lazarus Chakwera, Malawian president. Courtesy

LILONGWE - Malawi is forging a new relationship with Rwanda that could result in the exposure and extradition of several fugitives responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, who have found safe haven in the southern African country.

This development follows remarks by Malawi's new President, Lazarus Chakwera who, barely a month in office, has announced his wish to forge a new era of co-operation between the two states.

 

Diplomatic sources told The New Times correspondent that this was likely to translate into stronger co-operation between the governments of Malawi and Rwanda.

 

According to these sources, the new relationship is likely to address one of main sticking points with Malawi: the existence of genocidaires who are known to be living under false identities and passports in that country.

 

At least a dozen indicted genocide perpetrators are known to live in Malawi, though the number could be much bigger than this and many are known to have changed names and used fraudulent means to get naturalized as citizens.

One of these is Vincent Murekezi who was arrested, tried in court and deported to Kigali from Lilongwe after being exposed by investigative journalists.

Murekezi, who was sent to Rwanda to complete his sentence on separate charges on which he was convicted in Malawi, is now awaiting another trial to answer for his role in the Genocide, especially in Southern Province, where he lived during the 1994 Genocide.

He had been living in Malawi as a ‘successful businessman’ for many years after bribing government officials, some believed to be of high office.

Murekezi was issued with false passports and identities by officials in the previous regime. This allowed him to do business and travel freely between Malawi, Zimbabwe and other southern African states.

A Malawian journalist told our correspondent that there were "nests of vipers" of the likes of Murekezi who were known to be living and operating in Malawi.

Like Murekezi, they are suspected to have organised, funded, armed and led gangs of the Interahamwe militia who massacred hundreds of thousands during the Genocide against the Tutsi, back home in Rwanda 26 years ago. 

They are on a wanted list with which Rwanda has been trying to get them taken to court and to be repatriated to Rwanda to answer for their roles in the genocide.

"Some of these genocidaires are apparently leading successful lives, some as well-heeled businessmen, others as refugees from Burundi and others even as owners of well-known churches," said a Malawian journalist.

"Some of them were given refugee status in Malawi under the conventions of the United Nations."

President Chakwera was inaugurated as Malawi's new President and Head of State just 10 days ago.

His Malawi Congress Party, MCP and the United Transformation Movement, UTM of former Vice President Saulos Chilima, formed a coalition under a Tonse Alliance that decisively won a presidential re-run that was ordered by both the High and Supreme Courts of Malawi.

The Courts ordered the re-run after evidence emerged of massive irregularities in polls that were mismanaged by an electoral commission that favoured Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party, DPP.

Commenting on the relationship with Rwanda, Chakwera did not spell out details of the new ties.

He says, however, in a posting on social media: "Spoke to my brother, President Paul Kagame of the Republic of Rwanda, as part of my quest to forge strategic partnerships towards the strengthening of Capable Democratic Development States across the Great Rift Valley to leverage the bounties of our natural and human resources for the shared prosperity of our peoples."

Chakwera is expected to announce new diplomatic missions and representatives.

A possible new mission, said our sources, could be Rwanda.

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