"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


in the pink

Poor, poor Laurent Nkunda. The Congolese Tutsi formerly known as the dissident general leading the CNDP just can't catch a break. First, Rwanda's government realized that its donors were finally on to its machinations in the eastern Congo, so they arranged to have Nkunda's rival throw him under the bus by ousting him from leadership of the organization Nkunda built. Oh, and the Rwandans arrested Nkunda in Gisenyi.

Since then, Nkunda's whereabouts have remained semi-unknown, as have those of his pet goat, Betty. Since no one has reported seeing him march out of Gisenyi's prison on a work crew while wearing the stylish pink pajamas that are the uniforms for Rwandan prisoners, it seems that Kigali's former Man in Masisi is getting some special treatment. He's apparently under some kind of house/luxury hotel arrest, probably in Gisenyi.

Nkunda recently sued the Rwandans for wrongful arrest, but his case was thrown out by a Gisenyi court last week. Apparently there's a tiny issue in that Nkunda isn't aware the charges against him, and his wife Elisee (Again, who knew?!?) insists he's being held illegally. Human Rights Watch's Annika von Woodenberg beautifully shuts that argument down in a quote for this article, noting that, "He is well represented, more than any of his victim has ever been."

To be fair, we seem to be having a hard time understanding the nuanced meaning of certain types of "war crimes" here in the U.S. of A., and I haven't actually seen any news as to the specific charges under which the Rwandans are holding him. They keep promising to extradite Nkunda to the Congo, where he's wanted for a whole litany of crimes against humanity, etc., but that may not happen because under Rwandan law, a prisoner in Rwanda can't be extradited to a country that applies the death penalty. And guess which country applies the death penalty in an even less progressive fashion than that of Texas?

This whole situation is so clearly headed to one of a very few outcomes. Either Kagame allows Nkunda to escape in the name of ensuring continued chaos in the region (from which Rwanda directly benefits. It's a lot easier to steal land and resources when things are chaotic.), the Congolese get their hands on Nkunda, or Nkunda ends up sitting in a cell in The Hague. Or he dies under mysterious circumstances; maybe his plane to Kinshasa crashes on takeoff at Kigali or his bodyguard assassinates him.

None of these options are particularly favorable for Kagame and the regime in Kigali. Western states are finally having to acknowledge facts about Kigali's corruption and propensity for violating human rights that most of them have willfully ignored for years. Giving the West free reign over Nkunda is their nightmare scenario. As one diplomat told Times reporter Catherine Philp, "The last thing Rwanda wants is Nkunda spilling the beans in The Hague."

Still, my money's there. Kigali's got to do something with Nkunda, and they won't be able to delay the inevitable forever. They can't off him in an "accident" or let Nkunda sneak away over the lake late one night; that would raise too many suspicions. Rwanda is too committed to law and order to extradite Nkunda to Congo when doing so would violate a law. So letting the international community handle the prisoner becomes the only option, even if the prospect of Nkunda's testimony could be damning. They can't hold him indefinitely. Besides, pink's not really Laurent Nkunda's color.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny how Nkunda is arrested as soon as Barack Obama comes to power. Change of policy? Nkunda has been supported by Museveni and Rwandans for years. In fact he represent the other side of the genocide coin. Many have sympathy for the Tutsis and obviously deserved sympathy but the history of Rwanda is not that clear. Tutsi have carried out several genocides on Hutus and in some cases still do carry out these. The French know what happened and so do the Belgians but look who would want to be called a genocide denier? It would surprise me to see Nkunda being tired in Congo. Right now he is in a luxury hotel not a jail

Tuesday, April 28, 2009 1:09:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

I don't know. Most of the Obama administration Africa people were in the Clinton administration, which took a decidedly pro-Tutsi approach to regional affairs. Most observers think the Bush administration was more evenhanded. Maybe the Clinton crowd learned from its mistakes, but I think the change has more to do with the December UN report that clearly laid out Rwanda's role in supporting the CNDP. None of the Western government can now afford to be seen as being too close to Kigali.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009 1:20:00 PM


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