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Rwandan army chief given 30 years' jail over genocide

Augustin Bizimungu is convicted by the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda over his role in the 1994 genocide.

A Rwanda Hutu refugee woman places her baby among the dead for burial at the Kibumba refugee camp, Rwanda, in April 1994.
A Rwanda Hutu refugee woman places her baby among the dead for burial at the Kibumba refugee camp, Rwanda, in April 1994.
Image: JEAN-MARC BOUJU/AP

THE FORMER HEAD of the Rwandan army has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for his role in the 1994 genocide which saw 800,000 people killed in little over three months.

Augustin Bizimungu was given the sentence by the United Nations’ International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), based in neighbouring Tanzania, after being ruled to have incited the murder of Tutsis and moderate Hutus, who he labelled “cockraches”.

The now 58-year-old had trained and encouraged his troops and militiamen to kill prepared lists of people he wanted “eliminated”.

Rwanda’s chief prosecutor Martin Ngoga said he would have preferred for Bizimungu to have been given a life sentence but that he was prepared to accept the sentence handed down.

“It is a welcome decision by the ICTR. In its own circumstances, that is a big sentence, even if many people would think Bizimungu deserved the highest,” the Daily Telegraph quotes him as offering.

The head of Rwanda’s paramilitary police of the era was also found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity, but was found to have only had “limited control” over the actions and was released on the basis of the 11 years he had already spent in jail.

The genocide of 1994 was sparked by the death of president Juvenal Habyarimana whose plane was shot down over the capital, Kigali – causing some senior figures of the government to organise the ritual killing of Tutsis.

BBC News reports that the country’s current president Paul Kagame had since acknowledged that while Tutsi rebels were blamed for Habyarimana’s death, the plane was actually shot down in order to provide an excuse for a premeditated ethnic cleansing.

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Gavan Reilly

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