For more than two decades, he has locked himself from the outside world. Despite being the current defacto leader of Rwandan militia group in DR Congo, no single media has interviewed him. And there is no single photo of the ferocious commander. As KT Press exclusively reports, this may be the first such details about him.
His real name is Pacifique Ntawunguka– known by non de guerre Gen Omega; or Nzeri; or Israel. The reclusive commander operates in the forests of Rutchuru region – moving between the dense Virunga forest and adjacent regions.
Ntawunguka has reason to stay off the radar; the United Nations and U.S. government have put him on tough sanctions. And his organization – the democratic forces for the liberation of Rwanda or FDLR, on a global terrorist blacklist.
Little is known about Ntawunguka until now, apart from the fact that he is officially designated as Operations Commander for North Kivu province. Recent defectors such as Major Karemera Innocent Alias Kamere De Santos who was directly under Gen Omega have not said much about him.
It has now emerged that just like many top commanders were secretly wooed to return home, the Rwandan army held secret negotiations with Ntawunguka. Similar talks led to defection of FDLR supreme commander Gen Paul Rwarakabije with hundreds of his troops back in November 2003.
According to Rwanda’s Defence Minister Gen James Kabarebe, he personally spoke to Ntawunguka at same time as Gen Rwarakabije. The talks were held with the utmost secrecy because the Rwandan army was engaged in fierce battle with the militia group in a sovereign country.
“I pleaded with him to come home so we join hands to rebuild our devastated country since he had no genocide cases because he was in France in 1994,” said Kabarebe in a shocking narration to an audience this past weekend.
“I gave him all possible guarantees that he would not be prosecuted….his response shook me to the nerve. He told me there was only one condition for him to ever imagine returning to Rwanda.”
Gen Kabarebe said he told Ntawunguka that with his education, he would play crucial role in planning reconstruction – meaning he would probably get a good job appointment. All offers fell on deaf ears.
“Ntawunguka without mincing words told me he will never step on Rwandan soil until there is no single Tutsi,” revealed Kabarebe, adding “At first I thought he was joking, but then he repeated it several times coupled with derogatory language used to dehumanize Tutsis before and during the genocide.”
The extremist position of Ntawunguka is not strange – but counters notion held by western critics of the Rwandan government that not all FDLR rebels hold the genocide ideology. Some have gone as far as arguing that FDLR in its current form is manned by combatants that were children in 1994 or have been born in Congo.
But a field trip into FDLR controlled areas by UK publication The Guardian in May 2008 detailed the stark reality of a group that wants a Rwanda cleansed of all their perceive enemies; Tutsis. Reporters spoke to commanders and teenagers as young as 10 years.
“The Tutsis stole our country and they are killing the Hutus or making them slaves,” one boy said. “We have to kill them wherever they are. It is the only way to get our country back. When they are defeated I can go home. It’s not hard to kill. You shoot.”
The Guardian also interviewed Col Edmond Ngarambe (real name Lt. Col. Michel Habimana), who was FDLR spokesman at the time.
“They are fighting to take their country back,” said Ngarambe of his troops.
“Schoolboys are coming to us… They come to us because they know who the enemy is. It doesn’t matter how young they are if they don’t have their freedom. They will not be free so long as the Tutsis control Rwanda.”
In February the following year (2009), Lt. Col. Michel Habimana, alias Edmond Ngarambe surrendered to Rwandan forces. He is cousin of Gen Sylvestre Mudacumura, the man known by the UN as the supreme military commander of FDLR.
Mudacumura is in the exact league with Ntawunguka. He has never met any outsiders. The only existing photo of his is from archives of the former Rwandan army as he was bodyguard of president Juvenal Habyarimana.
Back at the event where Defense Minister Kabarebe spoke, he was addressing young Rwandans. Many were toddlers during the genocide, and have grown up in a country where the kind of extremism vented by their age mates in Congolese bushes, is no more.
“You have the responsibility to rebuild and safeguard this country; otherwise the Ntawungukas are determined to destroy it at whatever cost,” said Kabarebe.