Mastermind of Rwanda genocide dies at 80

Former Rwanda army's Colonel Theoneste Bagosora
Getty Images

Théoneste Bagosora, 80, a former Rwandan Cabinet minister sentenced to 35 years in prison on a genocide conviction at The Hague, died in prison in Mali on Saturday, according to The New York Times.

An official with the United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in The Hague confirmed Bagosora’s death to The Times.

Bagosora served as Cabinet director for the Ministry of Defense during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, when about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered by ethnic Hutu extremists.

After a plane crash that killed then-Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, Bagosora was with the highest authority in the Ministry of Defense, the Times reported. During that reign, he ordered the killings of top Rwandan politicians including the prime minister in addition to calling for the massacre of people in religious centers and schools and in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital.

After 10 Belgian peacekeepers were arrested at the prime minister’s office and brutally executed at Camp Kigali, United Nations forces withdrew from Rwanda, a move that was later criticized internationally. 

“In Rwanda, troops were withdrawn when they were most needed,” former U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said in 2014 of the decision, according to the BBC.

The International Criminal Tribunal initially found Bagosora guilty for his part in the peacekeepers’ killings. This conviction was overturned after an appeal and was part of why Bagosora’s life sentence was reduced to 35 years in 2011, the Times said. 
Following the genocide, Bagosora fled Rwanda before his 1996 arrest, when he was taken to the tribunal’s Tanzanian headquarters. He requested an early release earlier this year but was denied, according to the Times.
Tags Rwanda Rwandan genocide

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