KIGALI - The government has welcomed the arrest by Italian authorities of a Catholic priest accused of taking part in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. He has been working as a priest in Italy for the last 12 years.
Emmanuel Uwayezu, a Vicar in a Tuscan church in Florence, was arrested by Italian police on Wednesday and is currently in custody.
Justice Minister, Tharcisse Karugarama, could not reveal whether or not his extradition will be effected soon but said that the Government welcomes the move by Italian Police to arrest the man who orchestrated the killing of over 80 children of Mary-Mercy School Complex in Kibeho, where he served as headmaster.
“This man was arrested on the basis of indictments issued by Rwanda and Interpol. Usually, we prefer that such individuals be handed over to us, but the most important thing is to see the arrest being made. As a country, we are happy and what we want to see is justice being delivered.” Karugarama told The New Times.
Uwayezu who has been working at a parish known as Madonna Del Rosario e S. Pio V in Ponzano, under a modified name of Emmanuel Mihigo Wayezu, was discovered by the London-based human rights group African Rights in May this year, consequently alerting Italian police to carry out investigations.
Uwayezu claims to have fled when militiamen surrounded the school in May 1994. His students were then shot and hacked to death. Police meant to be protecting the students joined in the killing, the report from African Rights says.
“The massacre started immediately. Except for a handful of survivors, most of the students perished, killed by the guns and grenades of the gendarmes or the spears, axes and machetes of the militiamen,” the report says.
“Father Uwayezu returned to Kibeho several days after the massacre to arrange for the gendarmes to provide military training to Hutu male students so they could seek out survivors,” it adds.
According to Karugarama, the government will try to seek the extradition of the fugitive, adding that whether the extradition is done or not, what Rwanda wants to see is to have justice take its course.
He said that other European countries should follow the example of Italy and apprehend genocide suspects still roaming in European countries.
Uwayezu becomes the second Rwandan priest to be arrested serving the church in Italy under a false identity. Athanase Seromba who used to be vicar of Nyange Parish in the Western province, was found guilty of Genocide by International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha and is serving a life sentence.
Also using the fake name of Don Anastasio Sumba Bura, Seromba also used to serve as a parish priest in the same town of Florence.