KIGALI - Last week’s return to Rwanda of a critically ailing senior officer of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels is a testimony that the insurgents know the compassion and hospitality with which the Government of Rwanda receives such returning combatants, a senior demobilization official has said. Jean Sayinzoga, the president of the Rwanda Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission (RDRC), said yesterday that last Wednesday’s homecoming of FDLR’s Col. Faustin Sebuhura alias Minani Marius, who arrived from DR Congo through Rubavu border post aboard a UN ambulance, was not the only hardliner rebel the commission has received in similar conditions.
A similar case he pointed out was last year’s return of FDLR’s Col. Murego alias Mbuyu who has since resettled in his home village in Nyabihu District, Western Province, after he was hospitalized at major hospitals in the City of Kigali.
“It’s good that they also know that. We are now performing miracles common with your pastors out there. They arrive bedridden only to resurrect after receiving enough treatment. Colonel Murego is an example; he was brought unconscious but after medication, he bounced back to normal life,” Sayinzoga said.
He added: “They (FDLR rebels) know about our human rights record. Those who are very sick most times are left with no choice but to come home for treatment.”
Sayinzoga said that as it was with Col. Murego, the demobilization commission is fully footing the hospital bill for Col. Sebuhura.
Col. Sebuhura, who is among top suspects of the 1994 Genocide, was until his return an advisor to FDLR second vice president, Brig. Gen. Gaston Iyamuremye. Some reports have also refereed to him as the coordinator of FDLR training programmes.
During the Genocide, Sebuhura was deputy commander of Gendermerie (equivalent to present-day National Police) in the former Gikongoro prefecture, now in the Southern Province.
He had for a long time been on the most wanted list of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). His file is among those handed over to Rwandan authorities as part of the Tanzania-based UN court’s exit strategy.
Sayinzoga said the rebel Colonel, who was transferred to King Faysal Hospital from Rubavu (former Gisenyi) main hospital, was now much better compared to the state he was in upon his arrival. He crossed to Rwanda Wednesday last week and transferred to Kigali a day later.
Sebuhura was cited many times at the Arusha-based tribunal during the trial of Colonel Aloys Simba, the former head of the civil defence in the former Gitarama and Butare prefectures (now in the Southern Province).
Simba was found guilty by the ICTR and sentenced to 25 years. Asked whether Sebuhura would be demobilised after recovering, Sayinzoga said: “That is not for me to decide. That will be determined by all the stakeholders in this process. At this moment, what we (the commission) are doing is to take care of his health.”
The top demobilization official said his office coordinated Sebuhura’s arrival to the border from the hands UN Mission in Congo (Monuc), adding that, like all other returning FDLR combatants, he signed a form denouncing the rebels’ rebellion against Rwanda.
“I am not sure whether he really surrendered out of his own will or whether it was because of the state he was in. But it is also known that FDLR are under enormous international pressure to unconditionally disarm and repatriate, he explained.
In March, the Security Council passed a resolution calling on FDLR to surrender immediately to Congolese and Monuc authorities, and voluntarily return home. It also threatened to expand the list of sanctioned FDLR leaders.
Currently, the list has three rebel officials including the group’s overall leader Ignace Murwanashyaka, who lives in Germany.
Rwanda and DRC on November 9, 2007 signed a deal known as Nairobi Communiqué under which the latter was to force FDLR fighters to disarm immediately.
Majority of these fighters are accused of playing a central role during the 1994 Genocide, while many others face human rights abuse charges committed against Congolese communities and elsewhere in the region.
The Security Council insisted that those with crimes should be brought to book. By press time it was difficult to ascertain what awaits the former rebel officer.
When contacted the Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga, whose office is coordinating an international hunt for top Genocide suspects, referred this reporter to Prosecutor Spokesman Bosco Mutangana.
The latter’s phone was however switched off by the time we went to press. Contrary to several previous voluntary surrenders by members of FDLR top brass, the two officers – Sebuhura and Simba – called it quits only after seeing their lives deteriorate in the DR Congo jungles.
Notable among former FDLR bigwigs who have previously voluntarily repatriated Maj. Gen. Paul Rwarakabije, who was the group’s overall commander by the time he and several other senior officers returned home in 2002. Rwarakabije is currently working as a commissioner in the RDRC.
According to an ICTR indictment, Sebuhura on April 22, 1994, went to Gikongoro Prison and urged all Hutus to kill all Tutsi prisoners. He is also implicated in other Genocide crimes in Gikongoro at the time.
Meanwhile, Monuc has welcomed Col. Sebuhura’s voluntary return to Rwanda despite the serious accusations he faces, and hoped the move would encourage other combatants to disarm and repatriate.