Morning Chronicle - Rwandan genocide survivor group says French verdict a 'strong' message

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Rwandan genocide survivor group says French verdict a 'strong' message
Rwandan genocide survivor group says French verdict a 'strong' message / Photo: Benoit PEYRUCQ - AFP/File

Rwandan genocide survivor group says French verdict a 'strong' message

A Rwandan genocide survivors' group said Wednesday it welcomed the jailing in France of a former top official convicted of a role in the 1994 slaughter as a "strong" message.

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Laurent Bucyibaruta was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in jail, the highest-ranking Rwandan to have faced trial in France over the massacres in which an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died in 100 days of bloodletting.

"It is a strong indication that the political will by France to pursue justice against genocide fugitives is positively changing," said Naphtal Ahishakiye, executive secretary of Ibuka, the Rwandan umbrella support group for genocide survivors.

"Genocide survivors have little to celebrate considering what they lost but nevertheless, this sentencing is an indication that the truth will always prevail," Ahishakiye told AFP, calling for other genocide fugitives who have found safe haven in Europe to face justice.

France has long been under pressure from activists to act against suspected Rwandan perpetrators who took refuge on French soil after the massacres.

The French government at the time of the genocide had been a long-standing backer of the Hutu regime in power, something that has since caused decades of tension between the two countries.

Bucyibaruta, the former prefect of the southern province of Gikongoro, was accused of having persuaded thousands of people to take refuge in the Murambi Technical School by promising them food, water and protection.

Days later, in the early hours of April 21, tens of thousands of Tutsis were executed there in one of the genocide's bloodiest episodes.

Remy Kamugire, a survivor of the Gikongoro killings who travelled to France to testify in the trial, said the sentence against the 87-year-old should have been tougher.

"Justice is welcome but a 20-year jail term is not enough for Laurent Bucyibaruta, considering his big role in the genocide crimes that were committed and what we lost as survivors.

"We lost everything," said Kamugire, whose parents were among the victims in 1994. "After he evaded justice for two decades, he deserved life in jail."