Protais Mpiranya, one of the primary perpetrators of the 1994 Rwanda genocide, was recently confirmed dead after years in hiding. The confirmation came after more than 20 years of investigation by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). According to the ICTR, Mpiranya died on October 5, 2006 in Harare, Zimbabwe.
During the Genocide against the Tutsi, Mpiranya was very influential in Rwandan politics. He was the commander of the Presidential Guard, which took over power after former president Juvenal Habyarimana died on April 6, 1994, and is blamed for the assassination of key politicians as the genocide proceeded.
Mpiranya was suspected of assassinating the moderate Hutu Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, as well as ten Belgian peacekeepers in charge of her safety on April 7, 1994. Ms. Uwilingiyimana's desecrated body was then exposed, naked, for passers-by to see.
After the genocide, the United States government offered a reward for information leading to Mpiranya's arrest.
Mpiranya began a long journey of exile that took him to numerous African countries shortly after the genocide in which roughly 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred by ethnic Hutu extremists.
Others accused of participating in the genocide escaped to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where they formed the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (DFLR) (FDLR). Mpiranya joined them in 1998, commanding a brigade that fought alongside Zimbabwe's army, which was involved in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mpiranya changed his name to Alain Hirwa and earned the nickname "Commander Alain" from senior Zimbabwean officials. After his indictment by the international tribunal for the genocide was made public in 2002, his Zimbabwean associates prepared sanctuary for him in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Mpiranya moved to Zimbabwe after the DRC war, using many aliases. He continued to work for the FDLR, which was accused of exploiting resources in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. After years of denial, the Zimbabwe government finally revealed in September 2012 that Mpiranya could be hiding in the country, using aliases such as Theophase Mahuku and James Kakule to avoid arrest.
Investigators tracked him down in Zimbabwe, where a recently unearthed grave confirmed his death in 2006. They discovered that Mpiranya had been on the run for nearly 12 years, using numerous identities to avoid detection.
Mpiranya managed a business with his sister-in-law and was still associated with FLDR friends during his four years in Zimbabwe, according to the IRMCT, and carried a Ugandan passport under the name James Kakule. His wife and daughters moved to the United Kingdom, but they continued to see him in Harare.
He was using the name Ndume Sambao when he became very ill with tuberculosis in 2006, at the age of 50, and this was the name on his gravestone when he was buried in a cemetery near Harare.