Genocide survivors and relatives of victims have expressed dismay at a decision by Catholic Church to celebrate silver jubilee in honour of two priests convicted for their role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Emmanuel Rukundo and Joseph Ndagijimana are among six priests whose ordination and jubilee ceremony is slated to take place on July 16 at Kabgayi Diocese.
Emmanuel Rukundo was convicted and handed a 25-year sentence by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 2009, while Joseph Ndagijimana was convicted and handed life sentence by Gacaca in the same year.
Ndagijimana is serving his sentence in Mpanga Prison in Ruhango District.
Speaking to The New Times yesterday, Prof. Jean-Pierre Dusingizemungu, the president of Ibuka, an umbrella of Genocide survivors associations, strongly condemned the celebration of the jubilee and called it a form of negation as well as provocation.
“How can you celebrate criminals who committed the crime as cruel as genocide? Celebrating them is like honoring them as if they didn’t do anything wrong. It is just like absolving him of the heinous crime,” he said.
He said Ibuka was trying to find ways, which he did not disclose, to have the priests removed from the list of those who will be celebrated.
Dusingizemungu associated this to another incident where Bishop Anaclet Mwumvaneza of Nyundo Diocese co-celebrated mass with Fr. Edouard Ntuliye in Rubavu prison where the latter is serving a life imprisonment for his participation in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
He said all this shows that the Catholic Church continues to undermine the crimes committed as well as continues to shield criminals because this is done by well-informed people like priests; it is a form of provocation.
The announcement of the celebration also sparked outrage among many Rwandans on social media.
Despite the above reports, Smaragde Mbonyintege, the Bishop of Kabgayi Diocese, invalidated the invitation that showed the list of the priests to be celebrated, saying that the two priests are not among those to be celebrated.
Surprisingly, Mbonyitenge who issued the invitation, which also includes an event to ordain one priest and inaugurating some five seminarians as deacons, appeared to distance himself from the development.
“The two are not part of the team to be honoured. We don’t even know who prepared the list. It is clear whoever did it wanted to sow discord within the population,” he said, adding that an official list will be released in the days ahead.
The two priests were ordained in 1991, four years before the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi that courts found them guilty of having participated in.
According to ICTR findings, Fr. Rukundo ordered soldiers to abduct and murder Tutsi refugees who had come to seek shelter at St. Leon Minor Seminary Kabgayi that he headed, among other crimes.
Ndagijimana was found guilty of the killing of his fellow priests in Kabgayi Diocese.