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Rwanda Arrests Congo Rebel Leader


This is Morning Edition from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne. There has been no shortage of rebels and warlords to keep the long-running conflicts in the Congo going. Today, the most prominent of them was captured. He's been waging a brutal war in the eastern part of the country. NPR's Gwen Thompkins has been covering that story, and she joins us from Nairobi. And Gwen, who has been arrested? And tell us about him.

GWEN THOMPKINS: Well, General Laurent Nkunda has been arrested. He is the Congolese Tutsi who is the leader, or had been the leader, of a rebel organization that, in August, began a major push, a major offensive, in Eastern Congo. That offensive, you know, resulted in the Congolese Tutsi rebel group taking over many of the major cities and trading posts in Eastern Congo. But it also resulted in the deaths of many, many people in Eastern Congo, and the displacement of an estimated 250,000 people.

MONTAGNE: You met Nkunda late last year at one of his camps. Tell us about his style of leadership.

THOMPKINS: Well, this is a man who spent a lot of time burnishing his image as not only a great military leader, but also, Renee, as a great statesman. You know, when I saw him, he was carrying his trademark, silver-tipped cane, and he was dressed so sharply, Renee, that he could have attended one of those Washington inaugural balls this week just in his fatigues. I mean, they were pressed and starched so beautifully. And he was sort of - you know, he's been described by his own men, actually, as something of a megalomaniac. He did not delegate authority very well. He liked to be front and center. He loved to talk to the press. And you know, even in recent peace talks, he gave his delegation very little authority to make any decisions without him. And I believe that his men began to chafe under that kind of leash. And also, they began to think about their own futures irrespective of General Nkunda. And in the end, many of them, many of his top lieutenants, abandoned him in recent weeks and started up a rival, splinter rebel organization. That weakened Nkunda and right now, he has about - an estimated 2,000 soldiers who are still behind him. But no one really knows what will happen next, whether those soldiers are going to fight for him or whether they're going to find something else to do with themselves.

MONTAGNE: Gwen, thanks very much.

THOMPKINS: Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Gwen Thompkins, speaking from Nairobi in neighboring Kenya. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Gwen Thompkins
Gwen Thompkins hosts Music Inside Out on WWNO in New Orleans.
Renee Montagne
Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.