Théoneste Bagosora, mastermind of the Rwandan genocide, dies at 80


KIGALI, Rwanda РTh̩oneste Bagosora, a senior Rwandan military official who was one of the masterminds of the Rwandan genocide, died in a prison in Mali on Saturday. He was 80 years old.

His death was confirmed by an official of the International Mechanism called to exercise the residual functions of the United Nations for the criminal courts in The Hague. The official did not specify the cause of death.

Mr. Bagosora was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity in 2008 and was serving a 35-year sentence, which was reduced to life in prison. He was chief of staff in the Rwandan Defense Ministry during the 1994 genocide, in which ethnic Hutu extremists killed up to a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus in just 100 days.

Within three days of April 6, 1994, when Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana’s plane crashed, Mr. Bagosora Was found to have “assumed the power of the highest authority” of the Ministry of Defense, in addition to having a significant influence on political affairs.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda found that during this period it had ordered the murder of some of the country’s highest political figures, as well as the massacre of civilians in the capital, Kigali, and in western Rwanda. country.

Among those killed were Agathe Uwilingiyimana, the Prime Minister of the country; Joseph Kavaruganda, the president of the constitutional court; as well as politicians Frederic Nzamurambaho, Landoald Ndasingwa and Faustin Rucogoza. Under his watch, soldiers and militiamen also killed civilians in religious centers and schools.

Mr. Bagosora was also initially convicted of the murder of 10 Belgian peacekeepers, resulting in the withdrawal of United Nations forces. The peacekeepers were arrested at the Prime Minister’s office on the morning of April 7 and taken to Camp Kigali, where they were shot, beaten to death or killed with machetes.

Although Mr. Bagosora’s defense team said the attack was the result of a “mutiny,” the court held him responsible for their deaths. Mr. Bagosora, the judges said, “was aware of the threat they faced as an attack on them unfolded,” adding: “He had the authority and the means to prevent it, but did not did not “.

Mr. Bagosora was sentenced to life imprisonment. But the sentence was reduced to 35 years in 2011 after a number of convictions – including for the murder of some Belgian peacekeepers and civilians in many places – were canceled on appeal.

Théoneste Bagosora was born on August 16, 1941 in Giciye, in what is now western Rwanda. He was married and the father of eight children, one of whom died in a car accident, according to court documents.

Information on the survivors was not immediately available.

In the decades leading up to the genocide, he received training both at home and across Europe and rose through the ranks of the Rwandan army. He graduated from the École d’Officiers de Kigali as a second lieutenant in 1964, trained in Belgium and graduated in 1982 with a distinction from the Institut des Hautes Études de Défense Nationale in France.

In October 1989, he became a full colonel until his retirement in September 1993. But the Minister of Defense, Augustin Bizimana, recalled him to active service in May 1994 even though he continued to serve as director. cabinet of the Ministry of Defense.

After the genocide, Mr. Bagosora first fled to Zaire – now the Democratic Republic of the Congo – then left for Cameroon, where he was arrested in 1996 and transferred to the seat of the tribunal in Arusha, in Tanzania. Earlier this year, his request for early release was denied.

Marlise Simons contributed reports.

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