Before his arrest in August last year, Paul Rusesabagina did shed some light on the whereabouts of Gen. Wilson Irategeka, who was considered the overall commander of the National Liberation Front (FLN), amid speculation that he had been killed.
Gen. Irategeka was the head of the National Council for Renewal and Democracy- Ubwiyunge (CNRD), a breakaway faction of the terror group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which were among the groups that came together to form FLN.
FLN is the armed wing of the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD) coalition which Rusesabagina led.
As the ‘commander-in-chief’, Rusesabagina was tasked to shed light on the status of Irategeka, who was missing in action for some months, during a virtual press conference held on July 16, 2020 -few weeks before his arrest.
During the presser, a participant identified as Emmanuel Nsenga posed a question to Rusesabagina on the whereabouts of Gen. Irategeka, read out by By Espérance Mukashema, the MRCD/FLN communication strategist and Rusesabagina’s advisor on media affairs, who hosted the press conference.
Rusesabagina was tasked to give clarity on the status of Irategeka, who had been reported to have been killed in operations by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government forces, FARDC, targeting armed groups in the eastern part of the country.
During the press conference, whose video was deleted by MRCD in the run up to the FLN trial, involving 21 suspects, Rusesabagina also used the opportunity to speak about FLN activities.
“Regarding Wilson Irategeka, my last communication with him was at the end of November 2019, and from then on we never got to communicate again. We heard so many stories about him, some say he is sick and in comma in a certain hospital where he is admitted,”
“Others say he passed on. So, we don’t know the actual truth about the whereabouts of Wilson Irategeka,” Rusesabagina said.
Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XlRInBDCd4
Setting the Record Straight on FLN
During the press conference, Rusesabagina used the opportunity to set the record straight on how FLN came about and what it stood for, reiterating that much as it was founded by MRCD members, it represents all Rwandans.
“I want to give you my assurances that we created FLN in May 2018 as an inclusive organisation where you and I and all Rwandans belong.
“It was named MRCD/FLN because it was initiated by three political organizations under the MRCD coalition, but we believe it belongs to all Rwandans, not just MRCD. My wish is to see everyone becoming a member of FLN at any time they wish to,” Rusesabagina said.
In the same press conference, Rusesabagina highlighted how FLN was formed and the mission it was given.
Irategeka, real name Laurent Ndagijimana, also known as Rumbago, was reported to have been killed in clashes between DR Congo forces and the CNRD-FLN rebels in January 2020.
Captain Dieudonné Kasereka, a spokesman for the DR Congolese army in South Kivu, confirmed the clashes at the time, stating that the fighting took place at Mwenda in South Kivu. Several rebels were killed in the operations.
The army Spokesperson however did not confirm if Irategeka was among those killed but confirmed that at least 90 percent of the militias were killed.
During the trial, Col. Marc Nizeyimana, one of Rusesabagina’s co-accused captured in DRC during the operations and handed over to Rwanda, affirmed that Gen. Irategeka and several other high-ranking militias were killed in the operations.