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Laurent Nkunda

Laurent Nkunda was a rebel general in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. He was arrested by Rwandan authorities on January 22, 2009 in a shocking fall from power.

More by user: AllAfrica Editorial Team
Created: 23rd Jan 2009
Modified: 27th Jan 2009
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Laurent Nkunda
(At a Glance)
Date of Birth: Feb/31/1967
Gender: male
Place of Origin: Congo-Kinshasa

General Laurent Nkunda was born in 1967 and studied psychology at Kisangani University. He claims to be a Seventh Day Adventist minister, but that is disputed. He became one of the most feared military leaders in the Great Lakes region before falling from power swiftly in January 2008.

Nkunda joined the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in 1994, when it overthrew the Rwandan government during the genocide. Afterward, he returned to what was then Zaire, joining Laurent-Desire Kabila in an effort to overthrow Mobutu. Kabila's army was sponsored by the Rwandan government, made up the old leadership of the RPF.

When Kabila turned on the Rwandan government, Rwanda invaded again, and Nkunda joined the Congolese Rally for Democracy, fighting on the side of Rwanda and against the Congolese government.

After a peace treaty was signed to end the second Congolese war, Nkunda was suppose to join the government army as a general. Nkunda formed a rebel group in North Kivu in 2004. He claimed he was fighting to protect the interests of the Tutsi minority in the DRC. The Tutsis make up a fraction of the overall population at around 500,000. After the Rwandan genocide, Hutus fled across the border, and their presence was a source of insecurity for Tutsis in the DRC and Rwanda.

Nkunda steadily gained power in eastern DRC, and in October 2008, he led a surprisingly successful offensive, almost taking the strategic city of Goma, and embarrassing the government army. During the offensive, he discussed larger ambitions, claiming he wanted to topple the government in Kinshasa and reject negotiations.

After the offensive, Nkunda's authority crumbled at the climax of his power. He was probably ousted in a power struggle by his Bosco Ntaganda, his chief of staff. Later, in January, in a joint operation between Rwanda and DRC, Nkunda was arrested after crossing the border into Rwanda. He is being held at an unknown location in Rwanda.



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