A Rwandan Hutu rebel leader, Sylvestre Mudacumura was shot dead by the Congolese army on Wednesday.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) military spokesperson General Leon-Richard Kasonga confirmed that Mudacumura, who is wanted by International Criminal Court on war crime charges was “definitely neutralised”. Kasonga described the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) commander’s killing as “good news for peace”.
Mudacumura, wanted for charges including rape, torture and pillage, was killed about 60 kilometres (37 miles) from the capital of the province Goma.
Neighbouring Rwanda welcomed the news, saying it proved DRC President Felix Tshisekedi’s commitment to fighting “negative forces”.
Rwandan state minister for regional affairs, Olivier Nduhungirehe said: “The death of Sylvestre Mudacumura is good news for peace and security in the region.
“With his genocide group, the FDLR, he was destabilising DRC, killing Congolese and Rwandans.”
The FDLR is a Hutu rebel group created by Rwandan Hutu refugees in the eastern DRC after the 1994 Rwandan genocide of Tutsis my majority Hutus in Rwanda.
According to the United Nations, the force numbers between 500 and 600 active fighters.
Scattered across the mineral-rich eastern Congolese provinces of North and South Kivu as well as in southern Katanga, the group is regularly accused of committing atrocities against civilians in the zones it controls.
“His death confirms the commitment of President Felix Tshisekedi in fighting negative forces and will open a new era of good and peaceful cooperation between DRC and countries in the region,” Nduhungirehe said.
The FDLR, opposed to the current Rwandan government, has not launched any large-scale offensive in Rwanda since 2001.
The armed conflicts in the Eastern DRC have been fuelled by ethnic land disputes, competition for control of wealth of mineral resources and regional rivalries for more than two decades.
Kasonga also said Mudacumura’s death “is a strong signal for other rebels,” calling it a “big step” in the fight against insecurity and terrorism.
He called on “all armed groups to lay down their arms or face the same fate as Mudacumura.”
During a visit to the region early this month, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also called on the rebels to disarm.
US researcher Jason Stearn said the death was “an extremely important event”, saying that the FDLR is “one of the biggest armed groups in the region, even if they have diminished in capacity.”
However, Stearn, held out little hope for peace in a region where around 130 armed groups remain active.
“We have seen a lot of commanders die without the groups necessarily disappearing or diminishing in force,” he said.
Koketso Ramorei is a journalist and news editor of SADC News with years of experience in a number of genres including sports, politics and community reporting. He has worked for a numerous publications including The Citizen Newspaper and is a former editor of a Johannesburg-based off-campus publication called The Waldorfian Times.