Fifteen years after Rwanda’s genocide, a businessman went on trial today accused of ordering bulldozers to demolish a church where 2,000 Tutsis had sought shelter and watching as they were crushed by the collapsing structure or hunted down by armed gangs.
More than half a million members of the Tutsi minority and moderates from the Hutu majority were slaughtered during the 100-day Rwandan genocide in 1994, and justice is still being meted out.
Gaspard Kanyarukiga, who was arrested in South Africa in July 2004, pleaded not guilty to the charges of killing around 2,000 Tutsis at Nyange Church but prosecutor Holo Makwaia said Kanyarukiga had coaxed a reluctant bulldozer driver to crush those sheltering in the church. Those who tried to flee were hunted down and slaughtered.
In 2006, a Roman Catholic priest, Athanase Seromba, was convicted of ordering militiamen to set fire to the church and then bulldoze it. He is serving a life sentence.
Kanyarukiga’s trial at the Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda may take years. The tribunal has delivered judgments on 39 people, including six acquittals, since it was set up in 1994.
The genocide was sparked when a plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down as it approached Kigali, Rwanda’s capital.
The slaughter ended when current President Paul Kagame led a group of rebels to overthrow the extremist Hutu government that had orchestrated the killings.