By Staff Reporter
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration has shot down claims it harboured, until his death, indicted Rwandan war criminal, Protais Mpiranya, who committed atrocities during the 1994 genocide.
The remains of Mpiranya, alias Ndume Sambao, were recently traced to a grave at Granville Cemetery in Harare, popularly known as Kumbudzi, following an arduous search for the fugitive former presidential guard.
In a statement Sunday, Foreign Affairs and International trade minister, Fredrick Shava, said the Government of Zimbabwe cooperated with United Nations (UN) prosecutors and investigators in trailing Mpiranya, hence had nothing to hide.
“Contrary to a smear campaign peddled by both international mainstream media and social media seeking to portray Zimbabwe as aiding, abetting and hiding a fugitive, the Government of Zimbabwe actually assisted UN prosecutors in the identification of Mpiranya,” said Shava.
“The Government of Zimbabwe wishes to put on record that it met all its obligations under the international law. Zimbabwe fully cooperated with the UN Residual Mechanism in its investigations of the Rwandese fugitive who was indicted in 2000 by the International Criminal Tribunal for his role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. From day one, Zimbabwe cooperated fully with the investigation team.”
Shava outlined that the office of the UN Prosecutor responsible for tracking Rwandan fugitives and the Zimbabwean authorities established a joint task force to coordinate investigations and strengthen cooperation.
Zimbabwe, reiterated Shava, facilitated the investigation on the whereabouts of Mpiranya, and set up an inter-departmental taskforce mandated to investigate.
He added government financed the probe by the task force, which comprehensively investigated leads on fugitive Mpiranya and followed-up on new leads.
The UN prosecutor visited and held meetings with Vice President Constantino Chiwenga and his former co-deputy Kembo Mohadi.
“Furthermore, it was the Government of Zimbabwe that authorised and participated in the exhumation of Mpiranya’s remains when it was suspected that he was the one buried under a false name, Ndume Sambao. The government actually secured the grave, issued certificates to authorise the extraction of DNA samples and for them to be taken outside the country to the Netherlands Forensic Institute for analysis.”
The task force, including government pathologists and forensic experts participated during the whole process.
“It was not possible for the UN Prosecutor’s Office to come, exhume and take the samples of a deceased person buried in Zimbabwe without government authority. We were not only cooperating and assisting the UN Mechanism but we are also assisting Rwanda bilaterally and requests for extradition of some fugitives allegedly believed to be in Zimbabwe are at various stages of processing,” Shava said.
“Under the Second Republic’s engagement and re-engagement policy, we agreed to cooperate with them as we had nothing to hide. As the government, we fulfilled our international obligations under the UN Charter by giving the UN team unlimited access to the grave and protected it.”
Shava said Zimbabwe was a member of the UN system which respects and abides by international law that prohibits harbouring criminals.
He welcomed the findings from the DNA samples extracted from the fugitive.
“This outcome closes a sad chapter in the history of Rwanda and allows the country to move on,” said Shava.
The statement however did not explain how Mpiranya came into the country and how he played a key role in the DRC civil war in which he fought on the side of Zimbabwe.