A top suspect wanted for orchestrating the killings of thousands of people in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide – including children, hospital patients, priests and even an elderly and revered African queen – has been captured, police said.
Former Rwanda Deputy Intelligence Chief Idelphonse Nizeyimana was arrested on Monday in Uganda, police said, under an indictment from the Rwanda war crimes tribunal on charges of genocide, complicity in genocide, and direct and public incitement to commit genocide in the systematic slaughter of more than 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus over 100 days in 1994.
Until last week, Nizeyimana was believed to have hidden in the jungles of eastern Congo, where he belonged to a militia called the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, that continues to commit atrocities.
The Rwandan militia, made up of Hutus, is accused of having killed at least 1,000 civilians this year, including rampaging through a village and throwing children into a fire, human rights groups said.
The United States had offered a €5m (€3.39m) reward for the capture of Nizeyimana.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Nizeyimana’s arrest and called on all countries to continue to cooperate fully with the Rwanda tribunal, UN spokeswoman Michele Montas said.
Gregory Alex, who heads a UN team tasked with demobilising rebels in Congo and repatriating them to Rwanda, said the capture of Nizeyimana was a major coup.
“He’s important not only for his continuing role in the FDLR in the Congo but also for his role during the genocide in Rwanda,” Mr Alex said. “He is known for having spoken openly of the ’work’ he conducted during the genocide. He is someone who has actually admitted that he is a genocide organiser and executor.”
A chilling, 23-page indictment from the Rwanda war crimes court alleges Nizeyimana was de facto head of Rwanda’s Senior Military Training College during the 1994 genocide, ordering entire Tutsi families to be slaughtered and giving grenades and transport to militiamen.
He ordered roadblocks set up in Rwanda’s province of Butare, where Tutsis and Hutus had lived amicably together and where the genocide started later than in the rest of the country, the indictment said. At the roadblocks, Tutsis were identified by their ID cards and killed.
Nizeyimana, 46, has been flown to Arusha, Tanzania, for trial at the UN-established International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
Tribunal spokesman Ronald Amoussouga said the arrest of the former army captain and member of the president’s inner circle “is quite a significant development not only for the tribunal, but also for the quest for justice as a whole”.
During the genocide, Nizeyimana was alleged to have formed secret units of soldiers that executed prominent Tutsis, including Queen Rosalie Gicanda, who was in her 80s, according to the indictment issued in 2000.
The Rwandan monarchy ended decades earlier but Gicanda remained a revered and symbolic figure for Tutsis. Soldiers hauled her and others from her house in Butare and shot them behind the National Museum.
The genocide was sparked when a plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down as it approached Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. The slaughter ended when Paul Kagame led a group of Tutsi rebels to overthrow the Hutu government. Mr Kagame is now Rwanda’s president.