When Callixte Kalimanzira, was on Monday sentenced to 30 years in jail after being charged on the three different accounts of; Genocide, complicity in Genocide and for direct and public incitement to commit Genocide, mixed feelings about his sentence could not be avoided.
“I am not surprised that he is jailed, but I am shocked that he got only 30 years! This is a very small sentence for what he did, he deserves to die or be imprisoned for life,” said Angelique Uwimbabazi, a survivor of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Uwimbabazi, now 23, was 8 during the Genocide and witnessed the heinous acts. On one account while hungry and hiding in the bushes with her best friend, she was forced to witness as his legs were cut off at the knees.
The killers spared her life and walked off with their machetes, leaving her to deal with her bleeding best friend.
For Uwimbabazi, such horrendous acts do not deserve 30 years in jail especially for genocide ringleaders like Kalimanzira.
The Arusha based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), indicted 54 year old Kalimanzira in July 2005 after his arrest. For 4 years he was in custody at the UN detention facility in Arusha until Monday when his sentence was passed.
The case whether punishment for 30 years behind bars is satisfactory in relation to the gravity of crimes he committed is debatable.
In a report, ‘The Prosecutor Vs Callixte Kalimanzira Indictment, Case No. ICTR-2005-88-I,’ that was filed on July 21st 2005 by ICTR, the accused was under probe for numerous crimes he did between January 1 and July 17, 1994.
The prime of Kalimanzira’s crimes were committed between April 6 and May 25, 1994, under his watch and supervision as the Minister of Interior during the interim government of President Théodore Sindikubwabo and Prime Minister Jean Kambanda. This was after the plane carrying Juvenile Habyarimana and some officials was shot down.
Besides being minister, Kalimanzira was an agronomist by profession and civil servant who held various posts.
He was the Cabinet Director, Co-ordinator of agricultural services in Kigali, Director of Rural Development, an active member of the political party, Mouvement Républicain National pour le Dévelopement (MRND), and was also the Vice Mayor of Butare préfecture, also in charge of the nyumbakumi, gendarmes, communal police, the Interahamwe, militiamen and civilians.
With much authority comes great responsibility however, if authority is abused, the effects are unpleasant.
According to Laurent Nkongoli, a Kigali based lawyer whose speciality is in the Media and Humanitarian Law, the 30 year verdict as compared to life imprisonment was passed based on Codes of Law.
“Kalimanzira was known and respected by many because he was a kind man back in the day. To many people’s surprise he became an Interahamwe who tricked and killed thousands instead of helping them.”
Nkongoli said Kalimanzira worked as an agronomist for INADES-Rwanda (an NGO that specialised in cooperative formation and training), that was located in Giporonso, Remera.
Here he played a huge role in sensitising Rwandans in agricultural development initiatives most especially in Butare district (now Huye District) in Sothern province.
He later joined MRND and became an Interahamwe, who was seriously involved in both killing and inciting people to kill and eliminate the Tutsi at various roadblocks in and around Kigali.
Prior to the 1994 genocide, Butare was well- known for its dense Tutsi population and was a political stronghold of the Parti Liberal (PL), that openly opposed the ongoing massacres.
However, this solidarity did not last for long when the region was invaded by blood thirsty perpetrators of the genocide.
Eventually, under Kalimanzira’s precise supervision and orders, thousands of refugees were massacred on Kabuye Hill after he tricked them into believing that the killing was over.
He promised them safety, but, he gave them death.
For this reason, the ICTR prosecution believes that a mere 30 years behind bars is satisfactory for Kalimanzira’s crimes.
According to a statement by Dennis Byron, the presiding judge who passed the sentence, “the tribunal ruled that a life sentence is generally reserved for those who planned or ordered atrocities and those who participate in the crimes with particular zeal or sadism.”
The above is true for Kalimanzira, basing on facts. 30 years is debatable given the degree of his crimes, influence and involvement in the 1994 Rwanda genocide.
Since Rwanda’s laws do not permit the death sentence, even for the gravest crimes, life imprisonment for Kalimanzira, would have been the better option.