FDLR rebel chief Gen Mudacumura killed in Congo

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Slain Mudacumura donning RDF uniform

A report from Congo says Lt Gen. Sylvestre Mudacumura, leader of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda [FDLR] and sought by international justice, is reported to have been killed in a raid near Bukombo, North Kivu.

He has been elusive for decades.

Mudacumura was killed this morning 5am in a joint Congo-Rwanda military operation of FARDC and RDF.

According to a military source, there was no involvement of NDC militia.

The rebel chief was killed in a total surprise, not like before as he already was informed of operations planned against him.

Christoph Vogel, a researcher at the University of Zurich and the director of suluhu.org who follows armed conflict in East Congo, called it “a significant development”.

He said Mudacumura was known for hiding well, to the point only old pictures of him could be used in arrest warrants.

“He has been a centrepiece in the FDLR’s military and ideological build-up. While it’s been confirmed by official and other sources that Mudacumura was killed, we do not yet know who has been staging the raid, and how it has been rolled out.”

The raid caught Mudacumura together with at least half a dozen other FDLR top commanders whose whereabouts haven’t yet been clarified.

The operation took place in southeast Bwito area, east of Bukombo and probably around Makomalehe, Camp Paris and ‘Monument’, which has been FDLR heartland for years inside Virunga National Park.

“This, broadly is the area of interest.”

Meanwhile as combat in the area continues, the whereabouts of other FDLR top brass (Omega, Ruhinda, Gashirabake, Kubwayo) are unclear.

Byiringiro seems to have not been around which makes sense given FDLR pattern of not having him and Mudacumura in the same place.

Vogel said there is a plethora of belligerents that have directly or indirectly taken part in the hostilities around Mudacumura’s killing, notably Janvier’s APCLS and Domi’s CMC (on the sides of FDLR) and Guidon’s NDC-R (against FDLR).

The Congolese army claims the killing. There is further reports on 1-2 battalions not identified that would have taken part in the raid.

He said conflict in this area has been framed by a multitude of regular and irregular forces for many years, so quick conclusions probably aren’t the wisest.

“The killing of Mudacumura is big news and social media buzzing accordingly. For what is known, and what isn’t, at this time – see the thread below.”

Who is Mudacumura?

Sylvestre Mudacumura (1954 in Gisenyi, Rwanda – 18 September 2019) is the overall commander of the military wing of the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), known as the Forces Combatants Abacunguzi (FOCA). He was the deputy commander of the Presidential Guard of the Rwandan Armed Forces during the 1994 genocide.

Described as being age 55 in 2009, prior to the genocide he attended “the leadership academy of the armed forces in Hamburg” on a two year scholarship.

Following the genocide, it is believed Mudacumura’s wife and children were moved to Germany with the help of FDLR political leader Ignace Murwanashyaka.

Mudacumura is an FDLR ‘westerner’, belonging to the group of rebels who were previously based in Kamina and fought alongside the Forces Armées Congolaise, as opposed to the group that stayed in the Kivus.

Since 2003, there has been tension within the FDLR as Mudacumura has replaced ‘easterners’ with ‘westerners’ in the command structure.

He is implicated in the December 2006 death of the former FOCA second in command, Colonel Jean Baptist Kanyandekwe, who died of poisoning at a party thrown by the FOCA head.

Kanyandekwe is said to have led a faction advocating for the end of hostilities and the return of the rebels to Rwanda.

According to former FDLR combatants interviewed by Human Rights Watch and others, General Mudacumura has clear and immediate command responsibility over FDLR forces.

“It is Mudacumura who gives all the overall instructions and commands, and others follow his orders… No operation could ever be done without his consent,” one former FDLR combatant told Human Rights Watch.

In another case, a senior FDLR deserter from the Reserve Brigade told UN officials that Lt. Col. Félicien Nzabanita, commander of the Reserve Brigade, which conducted several of the larger attacks on civilians during Umoja Wetu and Kimia II, “never made any decisions unless they were coming from Mudacumura.”

It is unclear if Mudacumura or Murwanashyaka has more power in the organization, with at least one FOCA colonel reporting that Murwanashyaka reported to Mudacumura during a visit.

Mudacumura’s younger brother, known as “Big Patrick”, has a relationship with the Indian Battalion of MONUC.

Big Patrick was also rumored to have used his contacts with MONUC to provide expatriate medical care to Mudacumura in November 2009.

Mudacumura’s brother-in-law, Lt. Col. Edmond Ngarambe, was the FOCA spokesperson prior to being captured in Operation Umoja Wetu.

Sanctions and criminal charges

He has been sanctioned by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control under Executive Order 13413 and the United Nations Security Council’s Consolidated Travel Ban and Assets Freeze List.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court sought an arrest warrant against him, alleging responsibility for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in 2009-10 in the Kivus.

The warrant was issued on 13 July 2012.

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