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Tanzania reportedly arrests deputy FDLR commander

Numerous sources are now reporting on the arrest of General Stanislas Nzeyimana (aka Izabayo Bigaruka), the deputy commander of the FDLR––the German Tageszeitung wrote about it last Friday, and sources close to the Tanzanian security services are now confirming.

Bigaruka, as he is commonly known, was not directly involved in the 1994 genocide, as he was in undergoing military training abroad at the time. However, he did play a significant role during the insurgency in northwest Rwanda between 1997-1998. He later became commander of the South Kivu division and eventually was promoted to become deputy overall commander in 2008.

It is not clear how and when Bigaruka was arrested, although according to one UN source he was taken into custody by Tanzanian security officials at the Serena Hotel on April 5. He was allegedly accompanied by two Congolese protestant ministers. The newspaper Umuvigizi, which has been banned in Rwanda, however reported that he had been arrested in Kigoma, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, where he had been based for several years as an FDLR liaison officer. Accounts also differ on Bigaruka’s fate, although it appears the Tanzanian authorities have not yet accepted to extradite him to Rwanda.

If confirmed, Bigaruka’s arrest would be a further blow to an already weakened organization. In the past two years, the FDLR have lost their Chief of Staff Colonel Mugaragu, head of logistics Lieutenant-Colonel Furaha Honoré, and the influential battalion commander Lieutenant-Colonel Sadiki Soleil. Their president and vice-president are being tried by a German court, and the appearance of the Raia Mutomboki, which made it increasingly difficult to protect their civilian population in particular, have been further setbacks.

The FDLR’s future depends on whether it can re-establish its alliance with the Congolese army, or at least with other armed groups. There have been numerous reports in the past year that Kinshasa––or at least certain officers––have considered renewing their ties with the FDLR in order to defeat the M23, especially after many commanders lost faith in their own troops after the Goma debacle in November 2012. But those ties are still extremely tentative, and it is questionable whether the FDLR would present anything more than a huge reputational liability for the Congolese government.

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