Laurent Nkunda

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Laurent Nkunda
Born (1967-02-02) 2 February 1967 (age 56)
Mutanda, Rutshuru, Republic of the Congo (Léopoldville)
Service/branch Land Forces
Years of service1994–2004
Battles/warsRwandan genocide (1994–1995); First Congo War (1997–1998); Second Congo War (2000–2003); Kivu conflict (2007); Nord-Kivu War (2008)

Laurent Nkunda (or Laurent Nkundabatware Mihigo (birth name), or Laurent Nkunda Batware, or as he prefers to be called The Chairman; born February 2, 1967) is a former General in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and is the former warlord (leader of a rebel faction) operating in the province of Nord-Kivu, sympathetic to Congolese Tutsis and the Tutsi-dominated government of neighbouring Rwanda. Nkunda, who is himself a Congolese Tutsi, commanded the former DRC troops of the 81st and 83rd Brigades of the DRC Army. He speaks English, French, Swahili, Kinyarwanda,[1] Lingala and Kinande. On January 22, 2009, he was put under house arrest in Gisenyi when he was called for a meeting to plan a joint operation between the Congolese and Rwandan militaries.[2][3]

Personal life[edit]

Nkunda has six children. Before joining the military, Nkunda studied psychology at Kisangani University[4] then became a school teacher in Kichanga. He has claimed to admire leaders including Gandhi and George W. Bush.[5]

Religious beliefs[edit]

Nkunda claims to be a Seventh-day Adventist minister.[6] But Nkunda is really a Pentecostal Christian.[7] He says that most of his troops have converted.[8] In the 2008 documentary Blood Coltan about the real costs of mobile phones, Nkunda proudly shows a button he wears that reads "Rebels for Christ." He also claims to receive help and guidance from American "Rebels for Christ" who visit the Congo spreading Pentecostal Christianity.[9][10] The Seventh-day Adventist Church has denied Nkunda's claims of being a pastor and member of the church. At times he has visited the church.[11]

Political and military career[edit]

Rwandan Genocide 1994–1995[edit]

During the Rwandan genocide, the former psychology student traveled to Rwanda, joining the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) who were fighting against the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR), the military of the genocidal Hutu-led government.[12]

First Congo War 1996–1998[edit]

After the RPF defeated the FAR to become the new government of Rwanda, Nkunda returned to the DRC. During the First Congo War, he fought alongside Laurent-Désiré Kabila, who overthrew Mobutu.[12]

Second Congo War 2000–2003[edit]

At the outset of the Second Congo War, Nkunda joined and became a major in the Congolese Rally for Democracy also known as Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD), fighting on the side of Rwandan, Ugandan, Burundian, and other Tutsi-aligned forces (the latter are a relatively small group in the DRC, numbering between half a million to a million, but are a significant military force who live just across the border from Rwanda).

Army career and rebellion 2007[edit]

In 2003, with the official end to war, Nkunda joined the new integrated national army of the Transitional Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a colonel and by 2004, he was promoted to general. However, he soon rejected the authority of the government and retreated with some of the RCD-Goma troops to the Masisi forests in North Kivu,[13] where he raised the flag of rebellion against the government of Joseph Kabila (who had succeeded his father in 2001). Nkunda claimed to be defending the interests of the Tutsi minority in eastern Congo who were subjected to attacks by Hutus who had fled after their involvement with the Rwandan genocide. This war has come to be known as the Kivu conflict.

Forming a government[edit]

In August 2007, the area under Nkunda's control lay north of Lake Kivu in Nord-Kivu in the territories of Masisi and Rutshuru. In this area, Nkunda established his headquarters by building necessary infrastructure and developing institutions of order. He established a political organisation known as the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP).

2008 Nord-Kivu fighting[edit]

In fighting that began on 27 October 2008, known as the 2008 Nord-Kivu fighting, Nkunda led CNDP rebels who opposed both the army of the Democratic Republic of Congo, FDLR militias, and United Nations forces of the 17,000 UN contingent in the country. It was reported that he was advancing on the city of Goma with the aim of capturing it, with the Congolese army claimed he was receiving aid from Rwanda.[14]

The fighting uprooted 200,000 civilians, bringing the total number of people displaced by the Kivu conflict to 2 million,[15] causing civil unrest[16] large food shortages[15] and what the United Nations calls "a humanitarian crisis of catastrophic dimensions."[17]

In an interview with the BBC on November 10, 2008, Nkunda threatened to topple the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo if the president, Joseph Kabila, continued to avoid direct negotiations.[18]

Human rights[edit]

Throughout the years Nkunda has come under scrutiny and been accused by a number of organizations of committing human rights abuses. Nkunda was indicted by the Congolese government for war crimes in September 2005.[13]

According to human rights monitors such as Refugees International, Nkunda's troops have been alleged to have committed acts of murder, rape, and pillaging of civilian villages; a charge which Nkunda denies.[19] Amnesty International says his troops have abducted children as young as 12 and forced them to serve as child soldiers.[20]

In May 2002, he was accused of massacring 160 people in Kisangani, prompting UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson to call for his arrest following the abduction and beating of two UN investigators by his troops.[13] He has claimed that the UN have ignored the widespread attacks on Tutsis in the region as they did during the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

Child soldiers[edit]

The United Nations has identified Nkunda's CNDP as being one of the main groups responsible for the recruitment of child soldiers in the DRC.[21] Nkunda denies these allegations, stating that as of 2005 he has demobilised 2,500 "young soldiers".[22] His total army was estimated at 7,000–8,000 men.

Possible ouster[edit]

Nkunda may have been usurped in leadership by fellow general Bosco Ntaganda, who became the new representative of the group. The two might have had a falling out over a massacre of civilians perpetrated by Ntaganda's forces.[23]

Capture and arrest[edit]

Nkunda was arrested on 22 January 2009 after he had crossed into Rwanda. After unsuccessfully attempting to defeat the CNDP militarily, Congolese president Kabila made a deal with President Kagame of Rwanda to allow Rwandan soldiers into the DRC to uproot FDLR militants in exchange for Rwanda removing Nkunda.[24] Rwandan officials have yet to say if he will be handed over to DR Congo, which has issued an international warrant for his arrest.[3] A military spokesperson said he had been seized after sending three battalions to repel an advance by a joint Congolese-Rwandan force.[25] The force was part of a joint Congolese-Rwandan operation which was launched to hunt Rwandan Hutu militiamen operating in DR Congo.[26] Nkunda is currently being held at an undisclosed location in Rwanda.[27] A Rwandan military spokesman has claimed, however, that Nkunda is being held at Gisenyi, a city in Rubavu district in the Western Province of Rwanda.[28]

On 26 March 2010, the Rwandan Supreme Court ruled that his case could only be heard by a military court, since the military had been responsible for his apprehension. Nkunda's defence had sought in vain to have his detention declared illegal[29] and he has yet to be charged with a crime.[30]


  1. ^ McConnell, Tristan (2008-11-01). "Congo's maverick warlord who kills in the name of Christianity". The Times. London. Retrieved 2008-11-01.
  2. ^ Nienaber, Georgianne (20 January 2012). "What Happened to Congolese General Laurent Nkunda?". HuffPost. Retrieved 10 July 2016.
  3. ^ a b BBC News. Rwanda arrests Congo rebel leader. 23 January 2009
  4. ^ "Who is Laurent Nkunda?". Radio France Internationale. 2008-11-14. Archived from the original on 2012-03-23. Retrieved 2008-11-18.
  5. ^ "For Tutsis of Eastern Congo, Protector, Exploiter or Both?" by Stephanie McCrummen, The Washington Post, August 6, 2007
  6. ^ Baldauf, Scott (14 November 2008). "What does Congo's Gen. Nkunda want?". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 10 July 2016.
  7. ^ In the news: Laurent Nkunda The New Times Retrieved October 25, 2018
  8. ^ "Dinner With A Warlord." New York Times, June 18, 2007.
  9. ^ "Blood Coltan" "Blood Coltan", Interview with alias clayvonsebon at 25:00 mins
  10. ^ "Rebels for Christ, Killing in the Name of God" "Rebels for Christ, Two for the Road, New York Times Blog June 21, 2007"
  11. ^ 33CN: Adventists Deny Rebel Leader's Claim Affiliation Adventist Review Retrieved October 25, 2018
  12. ^ a b "We are ready for war, rebels warn Kabila" Archived 2006-09-24 at the Wayback Machine, The Independent, August 3, 2006
  13. ^ a b c "Arrest Laurent Nkunda For War Crimes", Human Rights Watch, February 1, 2006
  14. ^ Faul, Michelle (October 29, 2008). "Congolese army claims attack by Rwandan troops". Associated Press.
  15. ^ a b "U.N. says recent Congo fighting uproots 200,000". CNN. 2008-10-27. Archived from the original on October 29, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-28.
  16. ^ "Protesters attack U.N. HQ in eastern Congo". CNN. 2008-10-24. Archived from the original on October 30, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-28.
  17. ^ "Congo rebels 'cease fire' as UN urges restraint". Financial Times. 2008-10-29. Retrieved 2008-10-31.
  18. ^ "Talk or go, DR Congo rebel warns". BBC. 2008-11-10. Retrieved 2008-11-10.
  19. ^ Refugees International website. Retrieved 5 September 2007. Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ "Rise in recruitment of child soldiers in DRC." Archived 2007-10-23 at the Wayback Machine The Wire, Amnesty International's monthly magazine, June 2006. Retrieved 5 September 2007.
  21. ^ Section, United Nations News Service (14 December 2007). "UN News – DR Congo: UN mission says recruitment of child soldiers is surging". Retrieved 10 July 2016.
  22. ^ NBC's Interview with Gen. Laurent Nkunda of the Congo, Pt2. BBC. 2008-10-31. Archived from the original on 2013-07-23. Retrieved 2008-11-16.
  23. ^ Baldauf, Scott (22 January 2009). "Will Rwandan troops help in Congo?". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 10 July 2016.
  24. ^ "DRC: Civilians at risk from further fighting after Nkunda arrest", IRIN, 26 January 2009 (accessed 23 February 2009)
  25. ^ "Rebel leader General Nkunda arrested". The Zim Daily. 2009-01-23. Archived from the original on 2009-01-29. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
  26. ^ "Congo, rebel leader Nkunda arrested". Africa Times. 2009-01-23. Archived from the original on 2009-02-12. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
  27. ^ "Congo's Nkunda arrested in Rwanda". RTÉ. 2009-01-23. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
  28. ^ "Congo rebel leader Nkunda arrested". el Economista. 2009-01-23. Retrieved 2009-01-23. and "Congo rebel leader Nkunda arrested in Rwanda". Khaleej Times. 2009-01-23. Archived from the original on 2011-06-08. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
  29. ^ "Nkunda, Laurent". The Hague Justice Portal. Retrieved 2011-01-21.
  30. ^ "Nkunda's Case Not Easy, Says Rwanda". Daily Nation on the Web. Retrieved 2011-01-20.

Further reading[edit]

  • Stewart Andrew Scott. Laurent Nkunda et la rébellion du Kivu : au coeur de la guerre congolaise. Paris : Karthala, (2008). ISBN 9782811100872
  • Miller, Eric: "The Inability of Peacekeeping to Address the Security Dilemma," 2010. ISBN 978-3-8383-4027-2
  • WOLTERS, S., 2007. Trouble in Eastern DRC: The Nkunda Factor. Pretoria: Institute for Security Studies

External links[edit]