Former Rwandan mayors face Paris court over 1994 genocide charges
Two former Hutu leaders have gone to trial before a special court in France for allegedly conducting ‘massive and systematic’ executions of Tutsis in Rwanda.
Tite Barahirwa and Octavien Ngenzi face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity over their alleged involvement in a 1994 massacre in the east Rwanda town of Kabarondo. According to the prosecutors, the two Hutu politicians played a direct role in killing hundreds of Tutsis who sought refugee in the local church.
Both defendants had served as mayors of Kabarondo, with now 58-year old Ngenzi succeeding the 64-year old Barahirwa in 1986. The two leaders have denied carrying out “massive and systematic summary executions” and implementing a “concerted plan aimed at the annihilation” of the Tutsi minority.
Their trial is only the second case before the court established to shed light on war crimes in Rwanda, specifically on the genocide that claimed around 800,000 lives. The initiative came after pressure from activist groups, in particular Alain and Dafroza Gauthier who have led the campaign for the special courts. The activists claim Paris had largely ignored the killings in its former colony.
The mass murder took place on April 13, only days after Rwanda’s Hutu president Juvenal Habyarimana died in an attack blamed on Tutsis. On the day of the massacre, Barahirwa allegedly held a meeting at a soccer stadium, where local Hutu militiamen were ordered to “chase and kill ethnic Tutsis” throughout the town and especially at the church. Witnesses claim they saw Barahirwa, who was wielding a spear, calling for “work,” considered a code word for executing Tutsis in Rwanda.
The trial is expected to last for eight weeks, more than 100 victims, relatives and witnesses appearing at the stand. The proceedings will also be recorded for historical purposes.
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"Il devient absolument urgent de mettre un terme à cette injustice. Il y a un manque de connaissances et de recherches. Il faut donc promouvoir le recueil de témoignages, mais aussi construire des mémoriaux, organiser des expositions..." - @BenjaminAbtan