Does Ntaganzwa’s capture herald the implosion of FDLR?

This Monday, 7 December, Ladislas Ntaganzwa was apprehended by Congolese authorities in Nyanzale. Ntaganzwa is one of the 9 internationally sought génocidaires, individuals listed on an international arrest warrant for the participation in the 1994 genocide that shattered DRC’s neighbour Rwanda. Former mayor a tiny town southwest of Butare (now: Huye), Rwanda’s southernmost important city known for both is bustling university tradition and horrendous crimes in the last days of the genocide, Ntaganzwa is known for active involvement in (at least the preparations) of mass killing. In his town, Nyakizu, he prepared the grounds for approaching interahamwe cohorts, in close collaboration with Damien Biniga, the then deputy sub-prefect of Butare area (and until today, a political cadre with FDLR, the DRC-based militia that regroups the remnants of interahamwe and ex-FAR soldiers). At the time, both were civilian leaders and up to now, Ntaganzwa has never shown up in any of the public and non-public lists of FDLR cadres. While a few lower level FDLR officer have claimed he had the rank of a major, one high-raking FOCA commander has denied this. For more background, I  recommend the (public) reports by Mucyo, Omar, and Desforges.

So how come Ntaganzwa ends up in DRC custody after over 20 years in hiding? The most substantial of all explanations so far is the quest for bounty. The US government issued 5 million dollar primes for the capture of the group of the 9 internationally sought. Both UN sources and FDLR have indicated that Ntaganzwa may have been kidnapped – but the question then would be whether it were disguised Congolese military, professional headhunters, or even people within FDLR which had ‘protected’ Ntaganzwa for long? Some of the sources we spoke too, however, point at larger military developments all over Rushihe and Katobo.

Although it remains highly unclear how events have been sequencing over the past 1-2 weeks, the FDLR-Foca HQ in Katobo (‘Rushihe’) has most probably fallen. While this could be a major turning point in FDLR’s history as an armed movement, it also differently frames the story around Ntaganzwa. Amidst increased military pressure through FARDC (and other militias fighting FDLR in the area), both FDLR officers and local observers claim the génocidaire suspect has been apprehended in Kiyeye, not far from Nyanzale. Army sources however, declare the capture happened westwards, much closer the fallen FDLR HQ and that FARDC managed to detain Ntaganzwa.

While this is without doubt a historical event – the (in)famous list of nine was unchanged for many years – another massive one is to have FDLR-Foca dislodged from their main bases in North Kivu. Ironically, it coincides with the capture of a guy who has few formal links to today’s FDLR leadership (besides Biniga, probably). While senior FARDC officers take credit for the run on Rushihe and Lusamambo, it is also not exactly clear what types of collaboration have preceded FDLR withdrawal. The NDC-Renové, Guidon’s faction of the formerly unified Sheka militia, had been engaging against FDLR and significantly advancing onto FDLR-held position westwards from Walikale, in collaboration with several other local militias. From the east and south, various FARDC regiments 802, 804, 806, and 601 as well as certain commando battalions had been attempting, but experienced several crucial setbacks throughout the past 3-4 months too. These days, heavy buildups manifest themselves both in Nyanzale and Kalembe. At the same time, rumours over a possible surrender of General Mudacumura, Foca’s overall military leader, hinted at a political deadlock in which key stakeholders pressurised him not to leave the maquis.

Many questions remain open though: could this really be (the begin of) the implosion of FDLR? Do both Kigali and Kinshasa pursue this as an actual objective? Who, if not (only) FARDC, is instrumental in pushing the military part of it forward? One thing clear, is that Ntaganzwa’s capture is most likely at least an indirect consequence of all that, even if the bounty factor may have served as further incentive.





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  1. […] of which were to be prosecuted by the MICT and the other six by Rwandan national authorities. Ntaganzwa was subject to a reward issued by the US State Department’s War Crimes Rewards Program. All the […]

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