THE remains of former commander of the Rwandan presidential guard, Protais Mpiranya, have been exhumed at Granville Cemetery in Harare following a request by United Nations (UN) investigators to the Government of Zimbabwe to take samples for DNA analysis.
Mpiranya’s remains were exhumed last month and his identity was then confirmed by DNA analysis on Tuesday.
According to reports, the UN investigators had tracked down and identified Mpiranya’s grave with the help of a critical lead found on a confiscated computer: the hand-drawn design of Mpiranya’s tombstone.
Mpiranya died in Harare in October 2006 of a heart attack brought on by tuberculosis, at the age of 50 and was reported to have been living in Zimbabwe for four years before his demise.
The French inscription on the tombstone read: “Here rests forever one who loved his fatherland, his people and his family, more than his own life.”
Below that, a crude depiction of a warrior with bow and arrow was carved with the message: “Dad RIP”.
Mpiranya was head of the Rwandan Presidential Guard in 1994 before he moved on to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), fighting with Hutu forces and Zimbabwean troops on behalf of the then country’s president Laurent Kabila, against the Rwandan army, in what became known as the second Congo war.
It is reported that Zimbabwean officers saw the former commander as a cut above most of the Congolese troops they were fighting alongside.
“He developed a lot of relationships with these guys during the war,” a senior official in the UN prosecutor’s office was quoted saying.
“They respected him. He was a good commander, a professional, someone who listened, asked questions and took decisions. He was very security conscious. So he impressed the Zimbabweans when others they were working with did not.”
In September 2002, Mpiranya flew from Mbuji-Mayi in central DRC to Harare before he died in 2006, according to reports. When the UN officials visited the country, the Zimbabwean authorities agreed to allow Mpiranya’s body to be dug up on April 27 for a DNA test.
At the grave site there were UN officials, a UN pathologist, and three local detectives, among other ZRP officers. The pathologist only took a sample, without disturbing the rest of the remains.