Bernard Munyagishari, one of the most wanted suspects of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, was yesterday arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda (ICTR), Hassan Boubacar Jallow, announced the arrest of the fugitive, saying it was a “defining moment” after many years of intensive search.
He was arrested in an operation mounted by the Congolese armed forces, in collaboration with the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) Tracking Unit in Kichanga, North Kivu
Munyagishari is currently detained in Goma, pending transfer to the ICTR, where he is wanted on charges of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity, including rape.
Jallow hailed the DRC authorities for their cooperation in executing the warrant of arrest despite the hurdles encountered in tracking down the fugitive in difficult terrain.
“I have not heard from the ICTR yet. If that suspect has been arrested, it is a substantial development in ICTR’s pursuit of the most notorious suspects of Genocide still on the run,” said Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga.
The suspect is alleged to have recruited, trained and led Interahamwe militiamen in mass killings and rapes of Tutsi women in Gisenyi and beyond, between April and July 1994.
Arrangements are being made for the accused to be surrendered by the DRC authorities and transferred to the seat of the Tribunal in Arusha. Nine fugitives are so far still at large.
Who is Munyagishari?
Born in 1959 in Rubavu commune in Gisenyi prefecture, Bernard Munyagishari was indicted for genocide, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law.
He is accused of preparing and planning the Rwandan genocide of 1994. From 1992-1994, Munyagishari was Secretary General of the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND) in Gisenyi and President of the Interahamwe militia for the Gisenyi Prefecture.
Munyagishari is accused of co-founding and training the Interahamwe group in the Gisenyi region, distributing weapons and exercising authority over them as they operated roadblocks in the town of Gisenyi, slaughtering many Tutsis.
To help bring Munyagishari to justice, the United States Government offered a reward for information.
Individuals who furnish information leading to the arrest or conviction, in any country, of Munyagishari or any other indicted war criminal are eligible for a reward.
A reward may also be paid for information leading to the transfer to, or conviction by, the International Criminal Tribunal of an indicted war criminal.
In addition to the reward of up to $5 million, informants may be eligible for protection of their identities and relocation for their families.
Munyagishari started his career as a school teacher. In 1989, he was offered a position with Sonarwa, an insurance company, in the town of Gisenyi by way of thanks for his active participation in the local organisation of MRND
From 1992 to 1994, he was Secretary General of the MRND in Gisenyi town and President of the Interahamwe in the Prefecture.
According to the indictment, due to his rank in both the MRND and the Interahamwe, Munyagishari exercised effective control and authority over the Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi militias in Gisenyi and its surroundings.
Beginning of 1994, Bernard Munyagishari received a list of Tutsis to be killed in the town of Gisenyi.
After the death of President Habyarimana on 6 April 1994, it was Munyagishari who organised a search of those houses of Tutsis to be killed.
In addition, from 7 April until 17 July 1994, he supervised roadblocks in Gisenyi and its surroundings and ordered the Interahamwe to kill Tutsis and incited civilian Hutus to do the same.
Also, during this whole period, he is said to have created a special group of young Interahamwe, called the Intarumikwa, with a mission to rape and kill Tutsi women and young girls.