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Rwanda: Recent Documents, 2
Rwanda: Recent Documents, 2
Date distributed (ymd): 970307
Document reposted by APIC
RWANDA: 'The Planner of Apocalypse'
The Case Against Bagosora
By Filip Reyntjens
Inter Press Service, Africa Headquarters, 127 Union Ave. Box
6050, Harare, Zimbabwe. Tel: 263-4-790104/5 Fax: 263-4-728415
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THE HAGUE, Feb 28 (IPS) - Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, whose
trial reopens on Mar. 7 at the International Criminal Tribunal
for Rwanda (ICTR) was not the sole mastermind of the Rwanda
genocide, but he was among the core group of one or two dozen
who planned it.
Extradited on Jan. 23 from Cameroon, the case against Bagosora
is that he played a key role in launching the massacres on
Apr. 7, 1994, and helped establish an interim government which
presided over a genocide that claimed up to a million lives in
just over three months.
His transfer to the ICTR courtrooms at Arusha in Tanzania
might now stimulate a search for the other members of this
core group and encourage their extradition from their current
countries of residence.
Bagosora's presence in Arusha may also enable the Tribunal to
start streamlining its investigation and prosecution policy in
the changes that will be expected of newly appointed
registrar, Nigerian Agwu Okali, installed in the wake of much
condemnation of the ICTR's adminsitration.
A retired colonel of the former Rwandan army (FAR), Bagosora
occupied senior military posts under the regime of President
He belonged to the so-called 'akazu' - the 'little house' -
the intimates of the president's family, with shared political
and business interests.
By 1992, the Rwandan newspaper Umurava reported him as one of
the chief organisers of death squads that started operating in
late 1991. A Belgian inquiry mission conducted in September
1992 concluded that he probably was involved with the death
Later, Bagosora tried to sabotage peace talks, held in Arusha
from mid-1992 to mid-1993, designed to end the Rwandan civil
According to Rwanda's current Finance Minister, Marc Rugenera,
after a round of talks Bagosora stated that he was returning
to Kigali ''to prepare for the apocalypse'' if the peace
accords were implemented.
On Apr. 4, 1994, he said before several witnesses that the
peace accords would lead nowhere and that all Tutsis should be
exterminated. He was the Rwandan defence minister's cabinet
director at the time.
This position was to prove crucial when President
Habyarimana's plane was shot down on the evening of Apr. 6,
1994, triggering the resumption of civil war.
Both the Army Chief of Staff and Colonel Sagatwa,
Habyarimana's private secretary and a leader of the akazu,
were killed in the plane crash, while the Defence Minister was
on a mission abroad.
This left Bagosora virtually in sole charge when the army high
command met during the evening and night of Apr. 6-7. It seems
that he then embarked on a dual track, one visible and
official, the other parallel and invisible to outsiders.
Officially, Bagosora chaired meetings with the army staff and
was in contact with the UN Secretary General's special
representative, Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh, and with General
Romeo Dallaire, commander of the UN peace-keeping mission.
After these meetings, most of the Rwandan officers and the UN
officials felt the situation was under control.
This is when Bagosora embarked on his second track, putting
the killing machine in motion between 2 and 7 am, a time span
for which he cannot account.
At around 7am, the systematic hunting down and killing of
opposition politicians, leaders of civil society and Tutsis in
general began. Bagosora prevented one of the first prominent
victims, Prime Minister Agathe Uwiligiyimana, from
broadcasting an address to the nation. Units of the
presidential guard later killed Uwiligiyimana and the 10
Belgian paratroopers guarding her.
During those early hours Bagosora had at his disposal a few
elite army units, in particular the presidential guard. The
control of militia groups -- interahamwe, impuzamugambi and
others -- rapidly expanded the scale of the killings.
Despite all this, it is difficult to build a case against
Bagosora. In a book (Rwanda. Trois jours qui ont fait basculer
l'histoire, Brussels-Paris, Institut Africain-L'Harmattan,
1996), I attempted to establish Bagosora's involvement in the
Although I am convinced that he was a central player, I do not
have nearly enough evidence to prove his guilt ''beyond
reasonable doubt,'' as required in a criminal justice
One would not expect conspirators to keep diaries or minutes
of their meetings, nor to draft memos on their actions during,
say, the early morning of Apr. 7.
Also, it is improbable that a decision to organise genocide
was ever made at one specific moment. The project appears to
have developed over a period of two or three years.
Despite Bagosora's threats of apocalypse and extermination of
Tutsis it is not easy to prove an intention to destroy an
ethnic group. Of course, other people in the ''core group''
and others just beneath that central structure know how the
genocide was organised.
It may therefore be necessary to offer some of them immunity
from prosecution in exchange for their testimony. They must be
identified and found, persuaded to come forward and, perhaps,
protected. They are the missing link between the conception
and engineering of genocide and its implementation.
The need to establish this link may help the Office of the
Prosecutor to focus its policy. Its actions in the past have
been determined too much by external factors, such as the
arrest of suspects, so it has jumped from one line of
investigation to another.
The fact that Bagosora and three other members of the ''core
group'' are now in the hands of the ICTR should enable the
prosecution to draw a coherent global picture and tackle the
pyramid of genocide.
This is an opportunity for the ICTR to redeem itself, by
asserting its independence and impartiality. Many Hutus
realise that the prosecution and conviction of those
responsible for the 1994 genocide is the only way to rid
themselves of feelings of collective guilt.
However, the ICTR can perform its dual function - ending
impunity and contributing to national reconciliation - only if
it is seen to dispense justice even-handedly and if it avoids
giving the impression of ''victor's justice''.
There is overwhelming prima facie evidence that the victorious
Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), too, has committed enormous
crimes against humanity that fall within the Tribunal's
Before, during and after the resumption of the civil war the
RPF massacred at least tens of thousands of civilians,
particularly rom April to September 1994.
The ICTR has apparently not even begun to investigate these
acts. If it intends to build up the credibility it so badly
needs, particularly among the Hutus, it will have to tackle
this difficult and politically sensitive issue.
- Filip Reyntjens is Professor of African Law and Politics at
the University of Antwerp. He conducted the September 1992
mission of inquiry in Rwanda with Belgian Senator Willy
Kuijpers. This item comes to IPS via the Institute of War and
Peace Reporting in London and its Tribunal Monitoring Project.
Origin: Amsterdam/RWANDA/ [c] 1997, InterPress Third World
News Agency (IPS). All rights reserved.
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the
Africa Policy Information Center (APIC), the educational
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