Waging war by phone and emails

11 May 2011 by Thijs Bouwknegt

How do you spearhead a deadly militia in Congo, from Germany? In modern times, one only needs a mobile phone and a laptop to unleash a humanitarian catastrophe. German prosecutors are convinced that two Rwandans waged a brutal war some 6,000 kilometres away via telephone calls and emails. 

Known as the “The Doctor” for his PhD in economics, Ignace Murwanashyaka headed the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. With the help of his deputy Straton Musoni, he maintained the militia’s website, signed press releases and gave interviews about the group’s struggle against Rwanda.

But prosecutors in Stuttgart argue that Murwanashyaka and Musoni also directly ordered the burning of Congolese villages, the murder of 200 civilians, large numbers of rapes, recruitment of child soldiers and the use of human shields. Both men face a sentence of life in prison.

They were brought to court last Wednesday, handcuffed but looking confident with six lawyers at their side. The prosecutor read out a total of 55 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes including mass killings and rapes as part of “terror campaign” in eastern DR Congo from 2008 until their arrest in 2009.

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