2021-09-26 22:30:36 Théoneste Bagosora, a Mastermind of Rwanda Genocide, Dies at 80

Théoneste Bagosora, a Mastermind of Rwanda Genocide, Dies at 80

KIGALI, RWANDA (AP) — Théoneste Bagosora, a senior Rwandan military figure who was a key figure in the Rwandan genocide, died on Saturday in a Mali prison. He was 80 years old.

An official with the United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in The Hague confirmed his death. The cause of death was not specified by the official.

Mr. Bagosora was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity in 2008 and was serving a 35-year sentence that had been reduced from life imprisonment. During the 1994 genocide, ethnic Hutu extremists killed up to 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in just 100 days, he was the cabinet director for Rwanda’s Ministry of Defense.

Mr. Bagosora was found to have “assumed the power of the highest authority” in the Ministry of Defense three days after Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane crashed on April 6, 1994, in addition to holding significant influence on political affairs.

During that time, he ordered the assassination of some of the country’s top political figures, as well as the massacre of civilians in Kigali, the country’s capital, and in the country’s west, according to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Agathe Uwilingiyimana, the country’s prime minister, was among those killed, as was Joseph Kavaruganda, the president of the constitutional court, as well as politicians Frederic Nzamurambaho, Landoald Ndasingwa, and Faustin Rucogoza. Military officers and militiamen also killed civilians in religious centers and schools while he was in charge.

Mr. Bagosora was initially found guilty of the murder of ten Belgian peacekeepers, which resulted in the withdrawal of United Nations forces. On the morning of April 7, the peacekeepers were apprehended at the prime minister’s office and taken to Camp Kigali, where they were shot, beaten to death, or slain with machetes.

Despite Mr. Bagosora’s defense team’s claim that the attack was the result of a “mutiny,” the tribunal held him accountable for their deaths. The judges stated that Mr. Bagosora “knew of the threat they faced as an attack against them unfolded,” adding that “he had the authority and means to prevent it, but failed to do so.”

Mr. Bagosora received a life sentence in prison. However, the sentence was reduced to 35 years in 2011 after a number of convictions, including those for the killing of Belgian peacekeepers and civilians in a number of locations, were overturned on appeal.

Théoneste Bagosora was born on August 16, 1941, in the town of Giciye, which is now part of Rwanda’s western province. According to the tribunal documents, he was married and the father of eight children, one of whom died in a car accident.

Survivor information was not immediately available.

He received training both at home and across Europe in the decades leading up to the genocide and rose through the ranks of the Rwandan military. He graduated as a second lieutenant from the École d’Officiers de Kigali in 1964, trained in Belgium, and received a commendation from the L’Institut des Hautes Études de Défense Nationale in France in 1982.

He was promoted to full colonel in October 1989 and retired in September 1993. However, Augustin Bizimana, the defense minister, recalled him to active duty in May 1994, despite the fact that he continued to serve as cabinet director for the Defense Ministry.

Mr. Bagosora fled to Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and then to Cameroon, where he was arrested in 1996 and transferred to the tribunal’s headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania. His request for early release was denied earlier this year.

Reporting was contributed by Marlise Simons.

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Théoneste Bagosora, a Mastermind of Rwanda Genocide, Dies at 80