Days after General Nkunda's arrest, doubts and disbelief reign in Rwanda
Posted Wednesday, February 4 2009 at 10:37
Twelve days after the arrest and subsequent disappearance of popular Congolese rebel Laurent Nkunda at the hands of Rwandan authorities, with little said about him, people are beginning to wonder if he’s actually in custody.
Quietude has descended over Kigali, and confusion and suspicion has spread.
Twelve days after the arrest and subsequent disappearance of popular Congolese rebel Laurent Nkunda at the hands of Rwandan authorities, little light has been shed on the future – or present condition – of the embattled General.
And, people are beginning to wonder if he’s been arrested at all.
Nkunda maintains a Che Guevara-like popularity in Rwanda, where Hutu extremists slaughtered one million Tutsi and other Hutu moderates in the 1994 Genocide.
“He’s been protecting his people in the Congo…” said popular Reggae musician Natty Dread. “I’m sad to see him arrested.”
Mr. Nkunda’s National Congress for the People's Defence (CNDP) claimed to be protecting the Banyamulenge, a group of mostly Congolese Tutsi threatened by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), derivative forces of the extremists responsible for the genocide in Rwanda.
That mission has gained Nkunda an almost legendary status among some here, but others are happy to see him arrested.
Multiple government officials here have condemned Nkunda’s actions in the Congo, and others said they would happily trade the rebel for true peace on Rwanda’s frontiers.
“Nkunda is a thug,” says Eleneus Akanga, a journalist now living in the United Kingdom. “He should be sent to the ICC [International Criminal Court] as soon as possible.”
Others initially were proud of Rwanda for taking a charge against the General. A recent article in The New Times called the arrest proof that a UN report accusing Rwanda of backing the CNDP was false.
But confusion and surprise has quickly manifested itself into suspicion here in Rwanda, where a normally media-shy government has gone into verbal lockdown.
To some here, Kigali’s silence casts doubts over Nkunda’s arrest, with some claiming in a potion of conspiracy and realpolitik, that the embattled general remains in the Congo.
“That could mean he’s still in the Congo,” says one journalist and former Rwandan military officer who asks not to be named. “Who knows where people are here? They [Rwandan government] could have told him just to keep quiet.”
The Rwandan army, who reportedly apprehended him, has not helped its own cause by shutting down all major conduits of information for the media.
Other than offering snippets of information, not a single photograph, audio or video recording, or any other literature of proof of Nkunda’s arrest has been provided.
As the days drag on, and international media interest in the case begins to wane, scepticism in Kigali residents only grows.