Nyange, Western Rwanda, 26 March 2008 (FH) - The recent sentence of life in prison of Abbot Athanase Seromba, a former vicar in Nyange, western Rwanda, has been greeted by his former parishioners, adding that finally justice has been done, reports Hirondelle Agency.

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The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) quashed a 15 years sentence by the lower court in 2006 and imposed a new prison for remainder of his life in their judgement on 12 March, this year, for his role in the 1994 genocide. According to UN estimates, about 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were butchered in April-July slaughter, one of the worst forms of killings of the 21st century.

"Justice did its work... That should not affect anybody here in Nyange, since he [Seromba] was not the emissary of any of us", said Jean Baptist Kagenza, a teacher.

"The 15 years jail by the first instance court was an insult to the people. Without Seromba and his group, there would not have been genocide in Nyange", added a survivor, who requested for anonymity.

The church of Nyange was destroyed by a bulldozer on 16 April 1994, killing nearly 1,500 ethnic Tutsis who had sought refuge there. The bulldozer brought down the church under the orders and supervision of Seromba. The driver of the bulldozer asked the priest three times before implementing the order. Seromba told the driver that" inside were demons".

"I said it all in Arusha [ICTR], I am happy with the sentence", declared the survivor, who testified for the prosecution in the trial.

However, Iraduha Rukundo, 20, says that if he (Seromba) had refused the church's destruction, perhaps he would have been killed." Things will not be what they are today and may be we would have said well of him", he says while shaking his head.

An 80-year old woman, rosary in her hand, who remarked a pastor "who kills his sheep or quite simply betrays them is only good for hell", adding:" Imagine that at my age I will call him a" priest"? A devil among the other devils, he [Seromba] authorizes destruction of our church and the death of innocent people".

In 1994, Seromba was around 39 years old.

Showing the 12 steles which mark 12 common graves, debris of the church transformed into a badly maintained memorial site, Abbot Eugene Urayeneza, the current priest of Nyange Parish, almost in tears, said that the punishment meted to Seromba was not proportional to the crimes committed.

"As a colleague, I am shocked by what happened and what is happening to him", added Urayeneza. He says: "There are Christians who are waiting that their church be rebuilt to return to mass. They do not understand why they destroyed their church ".

About 14 years later, a mass takes place in a temporary church, without walls, supported by old wooden pillars and covered with perforated sheets that hardly protect from the bad weather.


©Hirondelle News Agency