A former Rwandan politician has been found guilty of masterminding the massacre of tens of thousands of Rwandans during the country’s ghastly 1994 genocide.
The former mayor of Nyakizu in southern Rwanda, Ladislas Ntaganzwa, was handed a life sentence by a Rwandan court for his role in the massacre on Thursday, Aljazeera reports, citing a court spokesperson. Ntaganzwa was charged in 1996 on charges of direct and public incitement to commit genocide, murder, and rape. The genocide began on April 6, 1994, when a plane carrying Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and his Burundian counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down.
Hutu extremists blamed the Tutsi rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) of the downing of the plane. This led to the launch of a well-organized annihilation campaign that claimed the lives of over 800,000 people, mostly from the minority Tutsi community.
“Ladislas Ntaganzwa was today sentenced to life imprisonment over genocide crimes committed during the genocide against Tutsi in 1994,” the outlet quoted court spokesman Harrison Mutabazi saying on Thursday.
Ntaganzwa was said to have plotted the extermination of Rwanda’s Tutsi population and personally instructed their annihilation. More than 25,000 Tutsi civilians were killed following his orders.
Meanwhile, Ntaganzwa served notice that he would be appealing his conviction. He was arrested in December 2015 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo after the United States placed $5m bounty on him. He has been in custody since March 2016.
His lawyer, Alexis Musonera, was quoted by Reuters saying: “We plan to appeal because the evidence in the hearing was based on witnesses’ testimony but that was not enough as some witnesses were contradicting themselves. We are not happy about this lengthy life jail term.”
The 84-year-old was arrested by French security forces earlier this month in a flat in Asnieres-Sur-Seine, where he was living under a false identity apparently with the help of his children.
A Hutu businessman, Kabuga is believed to have been the main financier of militias that massacred about 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus over 100 days during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
In 1997, the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda indicted Kabuga on seven counts of genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, attempt to commit genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, persecution, and extermination.
Rwandan prosecutors say Kabuga used his companies to import machetes and gardening tools that were used to slaughter people in the East African country. The businessman is also accused of setting up the media that urged people to kill anyone who was from the ethnic Tutsi.