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UN hunt for Rwandan genocide fugitive

TINASHE MAKICHI
A TEAM of investigators under the United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) has intensified efforts to solve the mystery around the whereabouts of Rwandan genocide fugitive Protais Mpiranya, who is suspected to be hiding in Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Independent has established.

The IRMCT is currently in the country to investigate claims that one of the world’s most wanted suspects might have died 10 years ago and part of the latest investigation is to ascertain the validity of those claims.

Mpiranya, the former commander of the Presidential Guard of the Rwandan army, has been on the run for 27 years after he was charged with war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity.

Sources close to the investigation told the Independent that Zimbabwe has since constituted an Inter-Ministerial Taskforce for this purpose.

The taskforce is made up of officials from  the ministries of Home Affairs, Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.

There are indications that a grave and grave number have been identified as Mpiranya’s and the investigation team is currently looking at ascertaining the validity of the claims for the exhumation processes to begin.

Most government departments and officials are tight-lipped about this latest investigation and the visit by the IRMCT.

“There was a meeting between three government departments and the IRMCT, together with a pathologist from The Netherlands who was flown to Zimbabwe,” a top government official said.

“This has been a top-level meeting where there are indications that Mpiranya’s grave and grave number were identified and the push is now on exhuming the body.”

Mpiranya has been on an international wanted list and was suspected to be hiding in Zimbabwe. This prompted the visit by the IRMCT delegation.

The Foreign Affairs ministry, in a response which they later withdrew, had confirmed the expected visit of the UN team of investigators.

The ministry withdrew the statement as they wanted approval from the minister first.

“The ministry highly appreciates it when you reach out to us to seek accurate information for publication on issues that fall under the ministry’s purview,” the Foreign Affairs ministry said in the statement it later withdrew.

“Please be advised that the delegation from the United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) will arrive in the country on April 24, 2022, and depart on a date to be advised after completing its mission.

“Please be further advised that Zimbabwe continues to cooperate with IRMCT in tracking down Protais Mpiranya. Zimbabwe constituted an Inter-Ministerial Taskforce for this purpose,” it said.

Contacted for comment, Rwanda Ambassador to Zimbabwe James Musoni said he was not briefed on the visit and referred all questions to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Efforts to get a fresh response from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were fruitless.

“We were not briefed of the visit and I understand the United Nations investigations team is working with a local team under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. So you can get a comment from there,” Musoni said.

The Dutch embassy said it was not aware of the mission since it was coming under the UN.

“We don’t know anything about it. If they were government-linked we definitely would know, so it can only be an independent organisation or something,” the embassy said.

Minister of Home Affairs Kazembe Kazembe was not picking up calls and did not respond to questions sent to him.

Minister of Home Affairs Kazembe Kazembe

Mpiranya is top on a list of remaining fugitives indicted by an international tribunal into the 1994 killings, which left 800 000 people dead in Rwanda, mostly from the Tutsi ethnic minority but also some moderate Hutus.

He had been second on the wanted list before the arrest on the outskirts of Paris, France, of Félicien Kabuga, a former businessman alleged to have financed the genocide.

The US war crimes reward programme offered a US$5 million (£3,6 million) reward for information leading to Mpiranya’s arrest.

Investigators have long suspected that Mpiranya was hiding in Zimbabwe and have made repeated attempts to convince local authorities to hand him over.

Around December 2010, UN investigators reported to the UN Security Council that Mpiranya had connections with Zimbabwe and lived there for long periods.

It is believed that Mpiranya had strong links with Zimbabwe’s military top brass as he once had a stint in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the war in that country.

Meanwhile, locally an investigation was instituted on illegal activities happening around the downtown area of Harare perpetrated by foreign nationals from Rwanda, Burundi, and Democratic Republic of Congo.

An investigation done by the Immigration Compliance Department in 2020 discovered that there is a group of foreign nationals mostly of Rwandan and Burundian origins, who have now got so rich to the extent of now sponsoring banditry activities and instability in their home countries.

According to evidence gathered so far, these foreign nationals came into Zimbabwe as visitors and immediately renounced their status to become refugees.

According to the report, they then ventured into running tuck-shops around the downtown area with the products being sold mainly in foreign currency.

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