Humanity is definitely starting to learn a little bit from its mistakes. Although it’s too late for the millions who were affected by the Rwanda genocide, it’s good to know that the ‘devil’ behind it is being punished.
By Sukhdev Chhatbar of The Associated Press (December 18th 2008)
ARUSHA, Tanzania – Rwandan army colonel Theoneste Bagosora, the architect of the 1994 slaughter of more than 500,000 people and the “devil” that a Canadian general tried in vain to stop, was convicted of genocide Thursday and sentenced to life in prison by a United Nations tribunal.
Bagosora was found guilty of using his position as director of Rwanda’s Ministry of Defence to direct Hutu soldiers to kill Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Bagosora is the titular figure of “Shake Hands With the Devil,” the chilling 2003 account of the Rwandan genocide by Senator Romeo Dallaire, who was in charge of the failed UN peacekeeping mission when the massacres began.
Bagosora’s lawyer, Raphael Constant, has said he will appeal the verdict within a 30-day deadline.
The court said that Bagosora, who had authority over the Rwandan military, was responsible for the deaths of former Rwandan prime minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana and 10 Belgian peacekeepers who tried to protect her as she was killed at the outset of the genocide.
Bagosora, 67, said nothing as the verdict was delivered, and there was complete silence from the scores of people who had packed into the aisles of the tiny courtroom to hear the judgment.
His conviction was welcomed by genocide survivors, who still live uneasily among perpetrators in the central African country nearly 15 years later.
Some 63,000 people are suspected of taking part in the genocide, although many of them have been sentenced by community-based courts, where suspects were encouraged to confess and seek forgiveness in exchange for lighter sentences.
“Bagosora … is the person behind all the massacres,” said Jean Paul Rurangwa, 32, who lost his father and two sisters. “The fact that he was sentenced to the biggest punishment the court can give is a relief.”
Dallaire was a key prosecution witness in Bagosora’s trial. He described dealing with the colonel as having to “shake hands with the devil,” and described how his peacekeeping force of just 2,100 – with troops and police from 26 countries – was hastily assembled and poorly equipped.
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