KIGALI - A cross-section of Rwandans interviewed by The New Times yesterday had mixed reactions, to the sentencing to life imprisonment, of three individuals who have been proven as having played a crucial role in the planning and implementation of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in what many observers say is a landmark ruling so far, sentenced the three officers including, Theoneste Bagosora, to life imprisonment.
The majority of the interviewees picked randomly in Kigali said that Bagosora and his three co-accused in what was called the Military 1 Trial deserved the life sentence he was given by the ICTR.
They said that the trial had taken unnecessarily longer as there was not much research needed to prove Bagosora’s culpability and his responsibility in the Genocide that left over one million dead.
Alphonse Bucyanayandi, a 39-year old Gikondo resident said that the sentencing of the three former officers in the Ex-FAR was long overdue.
“The sentencing was expected and only because the ICTR does not give a harsher punishment. In my view, there’s no possible punishment that Bagosora can be given to help the healing process of the country. But life sentence is better than anything else in the alternatives the ICTR have,” he said.
The verdict passed by Norwegian judge Erik Möse sentenced to life Bagosora together with Lieutenant Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva; and Major Alloys Ntabakuze.
In the same trial, Gen. Gratien Kabiligi, the former director of operations in the Ex-FAR, was acquitted of all charges.
For Robert Rwiyemeye 32, a genocide survivor working in the city centre, he was disappointed that the trial took such a long time to come to end.
“We have endured much anxiety reading and listening to the radio about the proceedings in Arusha, the trial took unnecessary long but I am happy that Bagosora will hopefully spend the rest of his life in jail and I hope he stays long enough as the victims of his activities have endured for so long,” said Rwiyemeye.
He added: “Now that the biggest suspects have been sentenced, I hope that that ICTR does not ask for their mandate to be extended beyond 2009 as they asked the Security Council.”
Stephen Muganga 45, who witnessed killings in Kanombe, said he was disappointed by the acquittal of Kabiligi.
“Kabiligi was an influential commander in 1994, there’s no chance that as director of military operations in the army he never participated in the killings.”
Senior prosecutor, Augustin Nkusi, who is also spokesman to the prosecution said that he was not surprised at the verdict against Bagosora.
“I have been following the sentencing session through media but anyone would have sentenced Bagosora to life in jail given his widely publicized responsibility in the Genocide. It is also good that the judgments are out of the way,” said Nkusi.
He was however disappointed by both the acquittal of Kabiligi and the earlier sentencing of 20-years to Protais Zigiranyirazo, a brither-in-law to former President Juvenal Habyarimana.