The death of the last major Rwandan fugitive indicted by the War Crimes Tribunal for his role in the 1994 genocide has been confirmed.
Protais Mpiranya was the head of the presidential guard and was charged with ordering the murder of then Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana.
His officers also murdered 10 Belgian UN peacekeepers guarding her.
Investigators traced him to Zimbabwe, where a recently excavated grave confirmed his death in 2006.
They found that Mpiranya had used various aliases on the run for more than 12 years to avoid capture.
After the genocide — some 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu were killed by Hutu extremists in 100 days — he moved to Cameroon.
Others accused of participating in the genocide have fled across the border to the Democratic Republic of Congo, forming a rebel group known as FDLR.
Mpiranya joined them in 1998, commanding a brigade fighting alongside the Zimbabwean army, which was involved in a conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo involving several countries often referred to as the “World War in Africa”.
The investigation found that he adopted the name Alan Silva and was known as “Commander Alan” and was respected by senior Zimbabwean military officers.
In 2002, an indictment against him was published by an international tribunal that had organized a shelter for him in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, to bring those responsible for the genocide to justice.
He was charged with eight counts of genocide, murder and rape for “directing, supervising, encouraging and assisting crimes committed by the Presidential Guard”.
A UN agency dealing with outstanding war crimes cases in Rwanda and Yugoslavia has launched a “challenging and intensive” investigation into his pursuit.
“For the victim of his crimes, Mpiranya was a feared and notorious fugitive, leader of the Presidential Guard during the genocide and later the supreme commander of FDLR,” Serge Brammertz, Prosecutor of the Residual Mechanism for the International Criminal Court (IRMCT).
“Confirmation of his death is a comfort knowing that he will not cause further harm.”
According to IRMCTduring his four years in Zimbabwe, Mpiranya went into business with his sister-in-law and remains in touch with colleagues at FLDR – and holds a Ugandan passport in the name of James Kakule.
His wife and daughter went to live in the UK but visited him in Harare.
When he fell seriously ill in 2006, aged 50, with tuberculosis, he used the name Ndume Sambao — the name on his tombstone when he was buried in a cemetery outside Harare.
“Since October 2006, Mpiranya’s family and colleagues have made every effort to conceal the cause of his death and the location of his burial,” IRMCT said.
“They have repeatedly provided false statements to investigators and directed those who knew of Mpiranya’s existence and death in Harare to lie when questioned. His tombstone was deliberately designed to prevent its discovery.”
How did the Rwandan genocide unfold?
On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying then-President Juvenal Habyarimana (Hutu) was shot down, killing everyone on board.
Hutu extremists have accused Tutsi rebel group Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) of denying the accusation.
In a well-organized massacre campaign, militias obtained lists of Tutsi victims. Many were killed with machetes in appalling atrocities. Little has been done internationally to stop the killings.
Finally, with the support of Uganda, the Patriotic Front marched towards the capital, Kigali. Some 2 million Hutus fled, mainly to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Dozens of Hutu have been convicted by the Rwanda-based International Criminal Court in Tanzania, and hundreds of thousands face trial in Rwanda’s community courts.