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Zimbabwe still hiding war crimes fugitive

Kigali — The Zimbabwean government is hiding one of the World’s most wanted war criminals, former head of Rwandan Presidential Guard during the 1994 genocide Protais Mpiranya, a Belgian news agency reported.

Belgium has expressed interest in trying fugitive former head of the Rwandan presidential guard during the 1994 genocide, Protais Mpiranya who is widely believed to be hiding in Zimbabwe, and operating businesses in Harare.

Mpiranya is in the list of 13 most wanted persons by the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) still on the run. In attempts to arrest them, the US-government has offered a bounty of five million dollars for each fugitive.

Responding to a question from Commission of Foreign Affairs, the Belgium Foreign Minister, Karel De Gucht, said that he was not sure whether Mpiranya was hiding in Zimbabwe, as was reported but he promised to raise the issue through Diplomatic channels.

Protais Mpiranya

The news report further claimed that Mpiranya was sheltered by close associates of Robert Mugabe who were jointly running ventures, including plundering resources of neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The report has named Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa as the man heavily involved.

There are an estimated 4,000 Hutu refugees living in Zimbabwe, some of whom took part in the genocide of Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994. Many are still pouring from Rwanda through Malawi and when they arrive in Zimbabwe, they are looked after by the government and some of them have been recruited into the spy agency, the Central Intelligence Organisation were they are used to do dirty work like abducting and murdering Zanu PF political opponents.

Many fled the country, seeking asylum after the killings, which destabilised neighbouring countries especially the Democratic Republic of Congo. “We are not aware of the fact that he is in Zimbabwe. We did not receive confirmation from the Tribunal in Arusha nor from our intelligence services” the Belgian Foreign Minister told the legislators.

The head of Belgian diplomacy said that he was “fully aware of the involvement of Mpiranya in the murder of ten Belgian peacekeepers on 7 April 1994, and in the planning of the genocide”. The Rwandan genocide resulted in more than 800 000 deaths according to the UN.

Sources in the Zimbabwean Intelligence Services said the Rwandan fugitive led a group of foreign mercenaries joining so-called “war veterans” and militiamen attacking opposition supporters in rural parts of Zimbabwe, during the 2008 aborted Presidential run-off elections.

Eyewitnesses said the men were more vicious than their Zimbabwean counterparts, with the marauding gangs attacking suspected members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), forcing them to renounce the party.

They dressed in army fatigues, carried Russian-made guns and were accompanied by interpreters when out with the militias. Patrick Chitaka, the then MDC chairman in Manicaland province confirmed that the foreigners were identified among Zanu PF militia.

Mr Chitaka said: “We observed that some of the people leading the violence were foreigners because they spoke a different language and they did not speak our local languages.

“Also the tactics they were using were not peculiar with Zimbabweans since they were cutting out the tongue, removing eyes and genital parts. We are not sure where they came from.”

It is believed they are the people who abducted and murdered MDC activist in Mabvuku Tonderai Ndira whose body was found tortured with his tongue cut into shreds. 200 Movement for Democratic Change supporters were killed in attacks by police, army, war veterans and ruling party militia. More than 200,000 displaced by the violence during the aborted March 2008 elections.

Rwandan refugees fear they may be sent home if an MDC-led government comes to power. Despite internationally backed efforts to rehabilitate Hutu refugees, fears remain among exiles that those returning will face persecution from the government of President Paul Kagame.

Meanwhile, another Genocide fugitive who was recently arrested in Malawi, Charles Bandora, has been released under unclear circumstances, according to Malawian sources. The highly placed source in Malawi said the ex- senior official of the former ruling party in Rwanda, the MRND, was let off the hook last week a few days after his arrest.

It is believed Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika was approached by the Zimbabwean high authorities. Bandora was arrested a fortnight ago by Malawi’s Criminal Intelligence Department (CID) on Devil Street, near Mugasa House, where he allegedly operated a business.

“It’s true he is out of jail and his whereabouts are still unknown up to now. But there are reports that he has gone to Zimbabwe,” the source said. The Genocide suspect, a former businessman in Ngenda, now Eastern Province, faces charges that include; Genocide, complicity in Genocide, conspiracy to commit Genocide, extermination, murder as a crime against humanity and organized crime.

This is not the first time Malawi has been reported of arresting Genocide fugitives and releasing them under unclear circumstances. Genocide fugitive Vincent Nzigiyimfura was also arrested and thereafter left the country for the United States of America in 2009. Born in 1945, in Busasamana, Southern Province, Nzigiyimfura was formerly a businessman.

Malawi was listed by the Prosecution last month as among some of the African countries that have rendered little cooperation towards arresting and trying or extraditing indicted fugitives responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

It is believed many Rwandan war criminals now living in Zimbabwe have passed through Malawi and fears are now growing that Robert Mugabe is recruiting these people in preparation for violence in the scheduled constitutional referendum and the national election which are likely going to be held in the next 18 months. Zimbabwe Mail