African Rebel Leader′s Life in Germany Angers Politicians | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 04.11.2008
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African Rebel Leader's Life in Germany Angers Politicians

German politicians want action taken against Ignace Murwanashyaka, the self-proclaimed leader of a group of Rwandan Hutu rebels accused of genocide. Murwanashyaka currently lives in Germany.

Fighters of the rebel Union of Congolese Patriots

Rebel groups continue to be a problem in Congo

Last week, Ignace Murwanashyaka popped back into the news when he denied that his rebel troops were involved in violence that has recently erupted in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Murwanashyaka was reached by phone at his home in the southern German city of Mannheim, where he has lived on and off for years.

"We are not in any way involved in this fighting," he told the AFP news agency. "The FDLR do not meddle with Congolese affairs."

The FDLR, or the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda, is a group of around 6,000 ethnic Hutu rebels that operates mainly in the Democratic Republic of Congo but also in Rwanda.

German criticism mounting

As fighting between Congolese rebel groups and the government continues, German politicians have renewed calls for Murwanashyaka to be kicked out of the country.

A Congolese soldier walks past a UN soldier

The UN has peacekeepers in Congo

Winfried Nachwei, a spokesman for Germany's Green Party said he finds it scandalous that the rebel leader can continue to control rebel troops while living in Germany.

"It is a disgrace to Germany that this head of a definite terrorist organization has lived here for years," Nachwei said in an interview with public broadcaster ARD on Monday, Nov. 3.

The program interviewed Murwanashyaka, who declared himself "president of this organization" claiming that he keeps close tabs on exactly what the FDLR is doing.

Walter Riester, the former employment minister for the Social Democratic Party, also said that Germany is "hurting its credibility" by not acting against people like Murwanashyaka.

Investigations continue

The FDLR is accused of human rights violations during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which Hutus killed some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Rwanda has called for Murwanashyaka to be extradited to face charges of crimes against humanity.

Two boys hug each other in a refugee camp in Goma

250,000 people have been displaced by the fighting

In 2005, Murwanashyaka was blacklisted by the United Nations for violating an arms embargo set up to promote peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Until the sanctions were imposed, Murwanashyaka had held a German residence permit but had been traveling back and forth between Germany and the dense forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu province that borders Rwanda.

Murwanashyaka was briefly arrested in 2006 by Mannheim immigration officials for allegedly entering the country illegally. He was released a short time later and no charges were brought against him, although he is reportedly being investigated by Germany's Federal Prosecutor's Office.

FDLR says it will protect refugees

The role of the FDLR in the current fighting currently taking place in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo remains murky. The Rwandan government and Congolese rebel leader Laurent Nkunda has said the FDLR is fighting alongside Congolese government troops.

Murwanashyaka, while denying those accusations, did say that his group would step in to the fighting to defend Rwandan Hutu refugees, if needed.

"We will make this very clear: if refugees are attacked, we will defend them, whoever the attacker is," Murwanashyaka told AFP.

Several weeks of fighting between rebels and pro-government militia groups has already displaced more than 250,000 people. Much of the fighting has been linked to the Mai Mai, one of dozens of small militia groups which operate out of the Democratic Republic of Congo's lawless east.

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