Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo have arrested a man widely believed to have helped mastermind the 1994 genocide that killed more than 800,000 people in Rwanda.
The capture of Bernard Munyagishari cannot replace the lives that were cruelly claimed in the campaign of rape, torture and killing. But his trial may provide a measure of justice and accountability for those who survived.
As head of the Interahamwe militia movement in northwest Rwanda, Munyagishari, 52, is believed to be one of the main instigators of mass killings in that area. During approximately 100 days of violence, he allegedly trained and armed these forces and directed them in massacring innocent civilians. He also allegedly created an arm of the Interahamwe with a mission of raping and killing women as a weapon of war.
For these and other crimes the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, or ICTR, indicted Munyagishari on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity and issued a warrant for his arrest. After 17 years on the run, he was arrested in the DRC's North Kivu province in an operation involving the Congolese army and the ICTR's tracking unit. He is being held in Kinshasa and will soon be transferred to the court in Arusha, Tanzania, to answer the many charges against him.
The United States is cooperating closely with other governments, the United Nations and ICTR to make it harder for fugitives from the Rwandan genocide like Munyagishari to continue to elude justice. Nine men believed to be most responsible for the slaughter in 1994 are still at large. Toward that end, we have offered rewards of up to five million dollars for information leading toward their arrest, and will continue to do so.
We commend the government of the DRC for its cooperation with the ICTR, which sends a strong message that there is no refuge for the perpetrators of genocide and crimes against humanity. We encourage Congolese authorities to proceed expeditiously and fairly with the processing of this case and the transfer of the accused to the international tribunal.